A Lost Identity Within I Am a Martinican Woman

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There is no single criterion that provides a necessary basis for identity, and neither is there a threshold, a critical mass of sufficient conditions. It is possible to assume that because "a" happened to a person, and "b" happened to the same person that he or she is a "c"-type person; however, it's impossible to make up a definition which covers all that there is about identity. In the novel I am a Martinican Woman by Mayotte Capecia, the reader sees the main character, Mayotte, hopelessly striving to find a static definition of her identity. Mayotte has a need to feel anchored in something that she can define herself as, yet at the very same time, she feels torn between who she is and what she needs in life. These contrasting feelings only lead to the exaggeration of Mayotte's emotions through her thoughts and actions, and her lack of identity becomes magnified to the reader. By analyzing the theme of racial identity and the strong presence of patriarchal structures within the Martinican society, one is able to see the difficulty in Mayotte finding a separate identity for herself.

Throughout the novel, Mayotte denigrates blacks, when, in fact, she is partially black. At the very beginning of the novel she depersonalizes herself from the "groups of young black girls" that carry baskets filled with food on their heads (Capecia, 34). Mayotte observes them and their graceful manner, but in no way associates herself with them, and even ventures to describe the crude details of how the girls stopped "to [meet] a need right there on the path; after which, she would simply wipe herself with her skirt and go on her way"(Capecia, 34). After her mother tells Mayotte the story about her grandmother, she expresses how proud she is that she had a white grandmother, yet she ventures to ask "How could a Canadian woman have loved a Martinican?"(Capecia, 63). She is amazed, it seems, that a white woman would stoop to marry a black man. Mayotte specifically states that...
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