Paule Marshall’s ‘‘To Da-duh, in Memoriam,’’ first published in 1967 and reissued in Reena, and Other Stories in 1983, is a story imbued with thematic resonance. The story focuses on a rivalry between grandmother and granddaughter; this conflict is based on several opposing forces, particularly the rural world versus the urban world, tradition versus modernity, and age versus youth. Marshall skillfully draws these disparate elements together, thus illustrating the cycles of time and the enduring nature of family. These multifaceted themes, along with Marshall’s subtle evocation of Barbadian history and her rich symbolism and metaphor, have made ‘‘To Da-duh, in Memoriam’’ one of the author’s most interesting and discussed works of short fiction.
The story also introduces Da-duh, who appears in different forms throughout Marshall’s work. Marshall openly notes the autobiographical nature of the piece, which she wrote many years after a childhood visit to her grandmother in Barbados. Understanding Da-duh’s influence on Marshall is an important tool for achieving critical understanding of the author’s body of work and her continuing themes. As Marshall describes her grandmother in an introduction to the story published in her 1983, ‘‘She’s an ancestor figure, symbolic for me of the long line of black women and men . . . who made my being possible, and whose spirit I believe continues to animate my life and work.’’