By Claudia Tate
Why did African-American ladies novelists use idealized tales of bourgeois courtship and marriage to mount arguments on social reform over the last decade of the 19th century, in the course of a time while resurgent racism conditioned the lives of all black americans? Such tales now appear like apolitical fantasies to modern readers. this is often the query on the middle of Tate's exam of the novels of Pauline Hopkins, Emma Kelley, Amelia Johnson, Katherine Tillman, and Frances Harper. household Allegories of Political hope is greater than a literary research; it's also a social and highbrow history--a cultural critique of a interval that historian Rayford W. Logan referred to as "the darkish a while of modern American history." opposed to a wealthy contextual framework, extending from abolitionist protest to the Black Aesthetic, Tate argues that the idealized marriage plot in those novels doesn't simply depict the heroine's happiness and monetary prosperity. extra importantly, that plot encodes a resonant cultural narrative--a household allegory--about the political targets of an emancipated humans. as soon as this household allegory of political hope is unmasked in those novels, it may be noticeable as an important discourse of the post-Reconstruction period for representing African-Americans' collective desires approximately freedom and for reconstructing these contested desires into consummations of civil liberty.
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Extra info for Domestic Allegories of Political Desire: The Black Heroine's Text at the Turn of the Century
Enough has been unrolled to demand your sympathy and aid. (p. 130) While the first two chapters reconstruct Frado's mother in a reciprocating discourse of maternal and filial affection (that is, Mag's affection for Frado and Frado's affection for her mother), the last chapter "Winding Up the Matter," the preface, and the appendix present another maternal discourse that merges with the initial ones. In the last chapter the mature Frado appears as a mother herself, who is struggling to fulfill her own maternal obligations to her son.
That is, the more extreme the grandmother's censure, the more Jacobs sought to sanction absolute sexual autonomy and continence for black women, conditions that could only exist if black women were free political subjects. With the issue of her sexual immorality attended to, Jacobs could maintain her abolitionist appeal and grant herself the traditional male prerogative of sexual agency by participating in the market of sexual exchange. This is her strategy for securing a degree of freedom from bondage rather than merely being an enslaved object of that exchange.
Seth went in pursuit, and returned without her. All effort proved unavailing. Mag felt sure her fears were realized, and that she might never see her again," a somewhat ironic response given the plot of the story (pp. 19-20). When Frado was found, "Mag was relieved to know her child was not driven to desperation by their intentions to relieve themselves of her, and she was inclined to think severe restraint would be healthful" (p. 20). In other words, Mag is consoled to know that her decision to put Frado into indentured service did not cause her to run away, and Mag subsequently takes precautions to prevent Frado from departing again until she can surrender her to the Bellmonts.