Critical Rsponse - "My Mother's Blue Bowl"

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"My Mother's Blue Bowl" is a biographical essay by Alice Walker which parallels Walker’s strong relationship with her mother. The essay follows the life of Alice Walker and her mother, in the American South during the twentieth century, as they move into the projects. In doing so the family abandons the mother's dream of a "decent house”, in order for Alice and her siblings to go to college. The underlying theme of this essay is renouncing materialism, being happy with what one has, and building on the ability to surrender possessions without regret. This theme is shown through the poverty that Walker and her family live in, as well as the content Walker’s mother has in regards to where she lives and what little she owns. In reality, people are judged and identities are tied to the possessions one owns, as was Walker’s mother. However, in the end possessions are not what one is remembered for. It is the deeds of the heart and the impact one has on others that lives on.
This societal need for opulence is brought to the reader's attention through the juxtaposition of the mother's selfless actions and few possessions. When examined from a Marxist lens, the struggle between the classes, based on wealth, authority and race, is prevalent throughout the essay. The society of the American South in the twentieth century was full of racism and poverty. Walker recalls the cold, harsh, wintry days, when my brothers and sister and I trudged home from school burdened down by the silence and frigidity of our long trek from the main road, down the hill to our shabby-looking house. More rundown than any of our classmates’ houses. In winter my mother’s riotous flowers would be absent, and the shack stood revealed for what it was. A gray, decaying...

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... real worth of a possession. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, a Swiss American psychiatrist, once said that
The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.
This quote encompasses both the loving side of Alice's mother, as well as her refusal to define her life by the possessions she owns. In death, one cannot take their worldly possessions with them. Kubler-Ross explains that only in experiencing total poverty and adversity, like Walker’s mother, can one come to a complete understanding of what is most important in life. Money and possessions are temporary, but family is forever.

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