The Characters

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

The stories chart the relationship between two characters, the narrator and her mother. In the early stories, the mother and daughter do not always recognize themselves as being two wholly separate people. Though the story “Girl” suggests that the narrator feels this closeness to be a bit suffocating, the stories “In the Night” and “Wingless” suggest that the narrator finds the extreme closeness with her mother to be satisfying. In “In the Night,” for example, the young narrator imagines herself growing up and marrying a woman who will tell stories every night, stories that always begin “before you were born,” as if the only perfect mate she can imagine for herself is her mother. Similarly, although the central image in “Wingless,” a young insect ready to grow wings, clearly implies that change is inevitable, the girl narrator finds comfort in her ability to imagine different futures that contradict one another, strongly suggesting that the passage out of childhood will be disappointing for her.