Bessie Head's "Woman From America Essay

Pages: 3 (1066 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 2  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Sports - Women

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Love for her, she says, is like a shoe that is made to fit a certain foot, rather than something pure, unstained, and unchanging. She has forced herself to submit to her circumstances. Although she is a Night Woman, she sees with the clear-sighted insight of the day.

Similar to the protagonist of "The Night Woman," the narrator of "Woman from America" represents many women, as well as offers the reader an individual perspective. She speaks for the women of her village who are fascinated by the outsider. The narrator of "Woman from America" is fascinated by the mixed heritage of the title character, and the American's evident Western heritage (Africa, Cherokee, and German). The speaker projects onto the woman her fantasy of strength, a woman who can take what she likes from both African and American traditions and say "damn it." "The Night Woman" is filled with images of women who are oppressed within their home community of Africa -- through sexual enslavement as wives and prostitutes, or women working in the marketplace. In "Woman from America" there are similar images of entrapment, as the narrator talks about the long trudge African women must make to find food -- simply to live and extract a living from the land. However, the "Woman from America" comes free, seeking to learn about Africa. Her curiosity about the land and ability to go where she wishes to go is in direct contrast to the narrator's life.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Essay on Bessie Head's "Woman From America" Assignment

When interpreting the stories, it is important to remember Bessie Head was not an American woman, but a South African who died before apartheid was ended. Through the narrator's eyes she eagerly looks upon the apparent freedom and mobility of Americans -- with a slightly idealized view. Yet although the narrator befriends the Woman from America, there is an implication that the American woman, as free as she may seem, cannot fully understand the plight of African women simply by borrowing an onion to cook from a neighbor. Unlike the African women, she has choice. That is why the narrator envies her. The American woman's mixed racial heritage also makes her stand in stark contrast to Head's society, which attempted to create a state of false racial 'purity' by creating divisions between whites and non-whites.

Danticat, a Haitian-American, writes with greater distance from her subject than Head. She gives the fictional prostitute more poetic language than the woman might possess in life, to give the reader a sense of what all women in such a plight suffer. But her short story has a poetic truth. Just like Head's story captures the sense of longing of the narrator, Danticat's tale reveals the vibrant inner life of a woman who is solely judged upon her exterior appearance.

Despite their different approaches, both writers strive to give voice to voiceless women in African society. The actual protagonists of the story -- a village woman in Africa and a marginalized woman in Haiti -- might not be able to speak for themselves. By giving dignity to their perspectives in prose, Head and Danticat force their readers to acknowledge both women's humanity and the humanity of the women… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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"Bessie Head's "Woman From America."  Essaytown.com.  April 6, 2011.  Accessed December 6, 2021.
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