The Salt Eaters

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Rosalyn Tomlin

English 316-040

Professor B. Greene

Final Essay

5/16/13

Finding Self-Love by Healing and Remembering Your Inner Self

In my reading of Toni Cade Bambara’s novel The Salt Eaters, I found myself at first disconnected and missing the real meaning behind the text. After reading it and putting it down and then picking it back up. The novel contains many variations of characters and different storylines that soon intertwine into each other. Woman’s quest in search for identity and freedom but not forget the importance of the black community values. In the novel, I found several important themes throughout the novel but my main focus will be on the healing power its focus on the community and female aspects finding self-love. In comparison to Bambara's work, Toni Morrison’s Beloved uses the act of remembering to deal with the past. The story gives brief understanding of the supernatural world. Beloved is the ghost of Sethe’s daughter who has came in the significant time of her life to bring Sethe to peace with her past. In both novels, the determination of finding inner peace become very hard to find, where rememory and salt are used as symbols to help both protagonist come to a close. But we have to ask ourselves would we be able to overcome our past by always remembering it?

The novel opens in clinic room where Velma Henry, the activist in the community attempted suicide. Along with Velma a spiritual healer by the name Minnie Ransom companies her and works on Velma. Velma attempted suicide because of her inability to deal with the conflicting demands of the black community. Her continuous interaction of groups of women committed to women's liberation, black capitalism, voodoo, and astrology, intimidate her sense of self because she believes in succeeding selfhood through work in the community, and each group insists on her faithfulness to segregation of the others. This also falls under with her growing with unhappiness with her marriage to Obie. Her dissatisfaction with life proves the compound for the other characters to mirror upon their own lives. Velma shows her merging needs by closing off herself from the dangerous realms of personal relationships. If we look at the definition of “the self” we think of a person or thing referred to with respect to complete individuality. The self is viewed as a carefully bounded physical space, a country with borders that can be opened and closed at will. The irony of this shows that the more she closes herself off it increases the fear of interference. While she protects the self from closure, she simultaneously stops the possibility of relief and healing. Minnie doubts that Velma wants to recover:

“Are you sure, sweetheart? I’m just asking is all”, Minnie Ransom was saying, playfully pulling at her lower lip till three different shades of purple showed. “Take away the miseries and you take away some folks’ reason for lining. Their conversation piece anyway” (15).

Velma has constructed her innermost identity by toughening herself against vulnerability and suffering; her suicide attempt shows her crucial sign at self-protection. To keep that in mind, Velma needs to keepo alive the pains and disorders that jusify it. In other words Velma finds security in maintaining a constant state of antagonism, that helps generate and completing a cycle, by withdrawals from love and happiness.

Minnie attempts to break this self destructive, self oppressive pattern through the use of all her folk arts. She expresses Her view of Velma and the world through a conversation with old wife:

Dancing in mud with cowries. Mmm. Twisting and grunting for the reward-applause of a bloody head on a tray. Lord, have mercy. What is wrong with the women? If they ain’t sticking their head in ovens and opening up their veins like this gal, or jumping off roofs, drinking charcoal lighter, pumping rat poisons in their...
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