Praisesong for the Widow focuses on a middle-aged woman coming to terms with her life thus far, and making a radical change in direction for the rest of her life. The need for this change is manifest with physical symptoms as well as Avey's dreams and anxieties. The novel links Avey's illness with the larger social illness of racism and poverty, suggesting that the historical context of Avey's illness is more important than the illness itself. The cure for Avey, is not found in medicine, but in a journey of reclamation and remembering the aspects of a past that she had to sacrifice to attain a middle-class lifestyle. Avery's cultural heritage is represented by her summer visits to Tatem, South Carolina and her early marital life on Halsey Street in Brooklyn. It is in Tatem where Avery recalls her Great-Aunt Cuney speaking about her own grandmother “Her body she always usta say might be in Tatem but her mind, her mind was long gone with the Ibos...” (39) Her body is there but her mind is still in Africa. It is with these words that takes us through the novel, learning and identifying the cultural losts and founds.
Lebert Joseph serves as a positive force for helping Avery reconnect with her past. He is “the elder” who is able to help her discard her obsession with middle class ideals and materialistic goods in order to reclaim her heritage because he is already rooted. Lebert Joseph is at all times connected to his cultural heritage and recognizes the significance of his connection. By taking Avery on the excursion to the island of Carriacou, Lebert is able to influence Avery enough to give up materialism for spiritual connectedness. It is out of compassion and a sense of responsibility that Lebert is willing to share his survival skills. Avery has forgotten her cultural heritage in her successful pursuit of material security. She no longer maintains any cultural ties with her past because she has become too comfortable with the ways of the middle...
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