Themes and Meanings
A Photograph: Lovers in Motion, as the title suggests, is about capturing and preserving the essence of life, which is, according to Ntozake Shange, a belief in oneself. Shange places a high value on the wholeness that results when a person learns to accept and love himself. With the exception of Michael, the characters in this play suffer from a lack of self-esteem. Sean is an emotional cripple who sleeps with and abuses three women in an attempt to ease the pain caused by his father. He recalls that his father had a habit of bringing women home, getting them drunk, sleeping with them, and then beating them mercilessly. However, when Sean speaks of arranging for a gang rape of Claire, wrestles with Michael when she threatens to leave him, or verbally abuses Nevada, he does not seem to be aware that he is perpetuating his father’s treatment of women. Sean’s past incapacitates him, making him unable to love himself or anyone else.
It is not until Michael instills in him a sense of pride in his race and in himself that Sean becomes a whole person. The motion or progression of his relationship with Michael then begins to take on a focus. She serves as a catalyst for his growth by conjuring up ancestral ghosts whose very lives serve to empower Sean to seek a better life, a life that does not involve manipulating women for the sake of survival. He comes to realize that he no longer needs Nevada’s money and prestige or Claire’s nymphomania to...
(The entire section is 465 words.)