Grace’s adherence to the tenets of “true womanhood” also launches the novel’s critique of the sexism embedded in the ideology of the American Dream. At every turn, Hopkins links Grace’s suffering to the male obsession with profit and consumption. The introduction of Charles Montfort states that while “[h]e was neither a cruel man, nor an avaricious one” the drive for profit skewed his sense of morality: “he perverted right to be what was conducive to his own interests” (22). Montfort 's decision to move his family to the American South, a land that the narrator of Contending Forces repeatedly associates with wild, unrestrained, savagery, is represented as a perversion of morality in favor of commercia...
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...ly do public and political social constructions shape the details of intimate lives; those personal details also form comprehensive social practices and institutions” (9). This formulation allows us to understand Hopkins’ representation of the forging of black family ties as a microcosm for the national codification of race, class, and gender identities. In Contending Forces, Hopkins depicts the simultaneous founding and dissolution of two black families through sexual violence. Grace Montfort, upon being made socially and legally black, is raped and rid of any claim to her children. Later, Sappho Clark’s story of motherhood echoes this experience of rape and abandonment of her child. In representing rape across two generations, Hopkins situates racially-motivated sexual violence as foundational in the process of individual identity formation and also class identity.
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