Gloria Naylor's Mama Day
It is impossible to interpret Gloria Naylor’s 1988 novel, Mama Day, in one way. There are multiple standpoints that a reader can take in explaining various events that occur throughout the book, as well as different ways that the characters in the book interpret these events. The author never fully clarifies many questions that the story generates so as to leave the readers with the opportunity to answer them based on their own personal experiences and beliefs. The multiplicity of perspectives in Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day is embodied in the legend of Sapphira Wade and the dynamics between logic and the supernatural and between George and Cocoa.
Sapphira Wade is a character that Naylor uses as a tool to immediately present the theme of multiple perspectives. Sapphira, who was brought to the island of Willow Springs as a slave in 1819, is at the top of the Day family tree. Through time her legacy had transformed to the point that her true identity became more of a matter of opinion than a matter of fact. Even the simple matter of the appearance of her skin becomes so distorted through the time span of a few generations that each member of the Willow Springs community describes her complexion differently. In regards to her supernatural attributes, members of the community portray Sapphira as being able to “walk through a lightning storm without being touched” and “use the heat of lightning to start the kindling going under her medicine pot: depending upon which of [them] takes a mind to her” (Naylor 3). It is up to the reader to decide which viewpoints to accept about Sapphira. These varying views on Sapphira’s identity provide the reader with immediate evidence of the theme of multiple tr...
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...it’s not as if [they] were dressing to petition the pope” (Naylor 230). Of course Cocoa’s perception of the situation was quite different: “I had to be perfect that evening” she says (Naylor 233).
Both George and Cocoa feel as if the discrepancy was the fault of the other. Their attitudes regarding the situation that night are completely different.
Mama Day is filled with situations in which the theme of multiplicity of perception arises. Various types of readers can interpret these situations in ways they feel are appropriate, just as different characters tend to have different perceptions of things based on their own values and ways of thinking. The important thing is that the reader does not forget that there is, in fact, more than one way to view these situations, and ignoring any one of them can take away from the worth of the book.