Disillusionment with Entering Adulthood in Angelina Grimké’s Rachel

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The play Rachel, by Angelina Grimké, reveals the harsh realities of life for an African American family living in the United States during the early part of the 20th century. Focused on the central character Rachel Loving, the play reflects each character’s reaction to racial prejudice against African Americans. The themes of motherhood and the innocence of youth are vital pieces of the issues Grimké wished to portray in her work. The development of Rachel herself revolves around her changing perception of what the role of motherhood might be. This insight stems from her understanding of the importance of child-like innocence towards the terrible truths of the world in which we are surrounded by. Through the use of poignant dialogue and stage directions Angelina Grimké highlights the ways in which certain populations are unable to attain their childhood dreams through Rachel Loving’s disillusionment with entering adulthood and leaving behind the ambivalence of youth.

At the outset of the play, Grimké immediately calls attention to Rachel’s fascination with youth. At the beginning of Act I, Rachel explains her longing to be a child with her mother, Mrs. Loving. Rachel exclaims, “I just want to be silly and irresponsible, and have you to love and torment, and, of course, Tom, too” (Grimké 4). Even though Rachel does not explicitly state that she wishes to relinquish her adult identity and become a child, it can be implied from her word choice. For example, Rachel’s desire to be “silly” and “irresponsible” are qualities that are normally found solely in children. Making Rachel possess this specific structural dynamic is quite interesting from a reader’s viewpoint. As you progress through the play, it is apparent that Rachel’s fascination with youth stems from her resistance to accept the racial discrimination she is faced with. For instance, on the topic of attaining a credible job Rachel explains to her friend John Strong that, “there’s no more chance for me...
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