Mama Day Essay

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The comparisons--North vs. South, city vs. country, technology vs. nature--are numerous and have been well documented in 20th century literature. Progress contrasts sharply with rooted cultural beliefs and practices. Personalities and mentalities about life, power and change differ considerably between worlds... worlds that supposed-intellectuals from the West would classify as "modern" and "backwards," respectively. When these two worlds collide, the differences--and the danger--rise significantly. This discrepancy between the old and the new is one of the principal themes of Gloria Naylor's Mama Day. The interplay between George, Ophelia and Mama Day shows the discrepancies between a "modern" style of thinking and one born of spirituality and religious beliefs. Dr. Buzzard serves as a weak bridge between these two modes of thought. In Mama Day, the Westernized characters fail to grasp the power of the Willow Springs world until it is too late.  "When I was just out of school I worked with a team of engineers in redesigning a nozzle for a nuclear steam turbine generator... It was an awesome machine... And when it ran... lighting up every home in New York, a feeling radiated through the pit of my stomach as if its nerve endings were connected to each of those ten million light bulbs. That was power. But the winds coming around the corners of that house was God" (251). George's experience in the hurricane is just one example of the contrasts between technology and spirituality. George ardently believes that every problem can be solved with rational thinking, planning and plenty of hard work. His obsession with fixing the bridge after the hurricane further illustrates this point; despite assurances from Mama Day and Dr. Buzzard that the bridge would be built in its own time, George diligently pushes the townsfolk beyond their capacity to work. His behavior surrounding the bridge--not to mention the boat he tries to mend--is based on his desire to save Ophelia from...
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