The discussion in today’s class led primarily by the work of Alice Walker left an impression on me that I have carried all day. Reading her essay, “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens” on my own before class stirred profound emotion, and I immediately felt a connection with the text. However, it was only during class, when the text was read aloud by fellow students as well as Dr. McCoy, that I felt truly enraptured by Walker’s message. My eyes could not be separated from the text, and I wanted to cry out for the women Walker spoke for. When it was mentioned by Dr. McCoy that it is thanks to writers such as Alice Walker that we, as English undergraduates, enjoy the freedom of expressing our interpretations of literature and feel that there is value in them, I was reminded of my admiration for literary study.
“Instead of being perceived as whole persons, their bodies became shrines…” (Walker, 401). Walker addresses the separation that African American women, her ancestors, felt from themselves and the world during the time of Jean Toomer’s Cane, in the 1920s. She argues that the reason for the ghost-like existence of these women at that time was the fact that they were denied any outlet for creativity, and went unacknowledged and dismissed by society. Walker stresses that these women were crying out for expressive freedom, and unless that was met they could find no joy or fulfilment in their lives. Joe Moran in Interdisciplinarity discusses that without literary criticism, and what I could interpret as the Arts in general, there is “a lost sense of wholeness in society and culture” (35). These women felt separate from society, and yearned for a wholeness that could only be recognized when they themselves were recognized, and their interpretations of “literature, life, and thought” – a phrase used by Moran – were considered valid. Society can only truly be whole and inclusive when it recognizes the value of its citizens, which can be achieved by literary and artistic freedom.
As mentioned in today’s class, we as citizens of this time in history enjoy more rights than, arguably, ever before. We have the opportunity to express ourselves with little restriction. It is my hope and plea that the public takes note and appreciates this freedom, as it has not always been there. Alice Walker reminds us of the incredible progress of women, African American women in particular. To suffer under the horrible oppression that they did, in so many forms, and rise to the intellectual greatness that so many have displays the most inspiring example of strength and wisdom. For, I believe, that those who have endured pain and oppression are the ones who can truly understand bliss and freedom, and make something beautiful of it.