Self Definition

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Throughout history black women have been stereotyped and put into many different roles in society. Black women, it seems, have become the scapegoat for many issues and problems and have been misrepresented usually by men, mostly by white men. Through the creation of the mammy, the sapphire, the Jezebel, the strong black woman and more, black women have been misrepresented and portrayed in negative ways in society. In a response to this labeling, black women have begun to tell their own stories and speak out for themselves. Through their writings, black women writers have been able to dispel the stereotypes of black women by showing the truth, the true story of the women, told by the woman. Doing this, they have been able to resist the oppression of the many negative stereotypes. The thoughts, feelings, history and background story of black women is told by her and the reader is given a different view of her life. By showing the oppression of the women, the community around them and their thoughts and feelings, the author is re-defining the black women and giving her a chance for self-definition. Jacqueline Bobo states, "This community of heightened consciousness is in the process of creating new self-images and forming a force for change". These black women writers have helped create a consciousness among those that read their novels, helping change stereotypes. In the novels Sula by Toni Morrison, and the short story My Man Bovanne by Toni Cade Bambara; the main character, a woman, is able to express her side of her story, it is not told by anyone else, therefore she is able to self-define herself and break the stereotypes and oppression that are against her. Each author uses situational irony in action and thought and irony through allusion and hypocrisy in names and situations and names forcing the reader to realize that the only true account of a woman's situation is the woman and forcing them to listen to her and allow her to define herself not a stereotype.

By listening to the woman's thoughts, the stereotypes against her are broken as the reader experiences situational irony. Through stereotypes, the reader expects the woman to act in a certain manner, only to find out that their notions of her are wrong and at times completely opposite. This is shown in the short story My Man Bovanne. The story is told through the mother's perspective. Through this the reader is able to understand why she interacts with the blind man the way she does, her hurt from her children's interaction with her and what she is truly thinking. Her interaction with Bovanne may seem sexual to an outsider but through her thoughts the reader sees that their interaction, "Wan't bout tits. Was about vibrations"(Bambara 4). When her children are scolding her, it seems as if she is giving in to them and will do what they tell her to do. She begins to express her feelings, through little comments and her thoughts, but her children ignore it and do not realize she will not listen to them. The reader realizes that she will not do what her children ask of her and does not care. This is surprising because it seems as if she is letting her children belittle her and tell her what to do when really she is not. Through this, we are shown how women can be misunderstood when they do not speak out for themselves. The mother decides to listen to her children and keep her true thoughts to herself stating, "So I don't say nuthin"(Bambara 6). Her actions can be perceived as agreement when her thoughts are defiant and showing her true feelings. Another show of this situational irony is when the mother runs off with Bovanne and leaves the party with him. Since she did not reply to her children's actions with her true thoughts, it may seems that though she truly does not want to support she will still help them and is being controlled by her children still. But, at the end of the short story, she does the exact opposite....
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