Function of Grandparents in African Culture

Topics: Family, African American, Grandparent Pages: 6 (1932 words) Published: April 29, 2013
| 4373306 (M) |
| Sanni Mohammed-HarunaAFRO 1023W - 001

[ The Representation of Grandparents in Caribbean Literature]| |

ID# _4373306_ (M)
AFRO 1023W – 001
Essay 2

In numerous instances relating to francophone literature, the displaced African woman is often depicted as a strong, independent, and resourceful individual. Contrary to western depictions of the role females were to play during that time period, many African women endured such things as hard labor and an increased sense of responsibility about the household. Though the man is still one to play the dominant role in the majority of situations, women were not known to be overly submissive, but instead raised themselves to a level nearly equivalent to that of their male counterparts.
In a similar vein, grandparents, and specifically grandmothers who evolved from their prior status as strong and independent, are also portrayed as caring yet resilient people in various pieces of Caribbean literature. Despite not being better represented among major African authors, grandparents are nonetheless pivotal characters of noteworthy contribution. Grandparents play a number of functions in the African community; most notable are the three primary roles of imparting values and cultural relevancies onto children, being a consistent and reliable fixture for the family, and taking on the responsibility of nurturing children; acting as an emotional, physical, and intellectual anchor for those in need.

The instilling of morals and values into the children of a specific community is a crucial step in the preservation of a culture. Without the transmission of this information between generations, cultural principles and ideals become vague and the community’s sense of identity grows to be equally indistinct. This important role of acting as a preserver of values was often placed upon the child’s grandmother. The reason being that in African culture “grandparents were honored because it was believed that they were the closest to the ancestors … [who] assumed revered status” (The Grandmother in African and African American Literature, Hill-Lubin, 259). So essentially, it was the grandmothers who most closely emulated the highly esteemed ancestors. We see this conveying of moral standards a lot in the texts covered in class, most notably in The Butterfly in the Inner City. In the story, the reader can find that Felicie’s grandmother, usually referred to as Man Ya, regularly exercises her influence over Fefe; communicating a number of cultural values to her in the process. There are a couple of prime examples as to how the transmission of said values are communicated that are found within the text, one being Man Julia’s strict set of rules put in place for her granddaughter. Even when just going out with her best friend Laurine for a short while, “She always has one thousand rules to list before I go. ‘Don’t go to strangers’ houses! Don’t play with boys who look up girl’ skirts! Do you understand? Don’t go too far...’” (The Butterfly in the Inner City, Pineau and Rudolph, 10-11). Man Ya repeatedly stresses safety and order while also giving practical advice to Felicie, simultaneously conveying ideals to her. In another example we also see Man Ya’s tremendous value she places on education. In the first chapter of the book, Felicie speaks of her grandmother having her recite homework upon completion and the notion of schooling is mentioned multiple times throughout. Despite being illiterate, Man Ya is still able to express this key value. Towards the end of the chapter when Felicie was preparing to finally leave, we again see the stress Man Ya puts on education when she says to “Forget your miserable life with me, but never forget the good education you received here.” (The Butterfly in the Inner City, Pineau and Rudolph, 15). The fact that the last thing that meant anything to Madam Julia was being stripped away from her yet her...

Cited: * Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid
* Butterfly in the Inner City by G. Pineau and K.L Rudolph
* The Grandmother in African and African American Literature: A Survivor of the African Extended Family by Mildred A. Hill-Lubin
* Sugar Cane Alley / Rue Cases-Negres (film)
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