Mama, McMillan’s first novel, is the story of an uneducated black woman living in the 1960’s who possesses the strength to survive and the will to hope. Mildred Peacock, the protagonist of the story, is no saint. She swears, she drinks constantly, and whenever she has a good opportunity, she lets a good-looking man have sex with her. Her capacity for violence is established in the much-quoted first sentence of the book, “Mildred hid the ax beneath the mattress of the cot in the dining room.”
As Mildred recalls the night she has just been through, it is clear that she might almost be justified in killing the man who has been her husband for the last ten years. Once again, her drunken husband has battered her, while the five children he professes to love cowered, terrified, waiting for the sounds of fighting to change to the sound of sexual intercourse. Because it is she who provides the financial and emotional support for the family, and her unfaithful husband comes home only to beat her, have sex, and father more children, Mildred finally decides that Crook is not worth keeping. She is going to get a divorce.
The rest of the novel shows how Mildred accomplishes the goal she has set for herself: to raise her children so that they will have a better life than hers. It is not an easy task. She has to deal with heartless employers, persistent rent collectors, and suspicious welfare workers as well as with her own weaknesses,...
(The entire section is 461 words.)