Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Heath’s major theme has to do with the difficulty of adjusting to a new environment. Mrs. Singh never feels at home in Guiana and is always dreaming about her native India. Her son Betta is a first-generation Guianan and does not have his mother’s memories of India or her fantasies about its superior culture. He is forced to come to terms with the land where he was born and to face its multifold problems like a pioneer hacking his way through the dense Guiana jungles. His mother feels alienated from the Guianese people because she comes from a different culture; Betta feels alienated because his European education has made it nearly impossible to relate to the majority of the ignorant, superstitious, impoverished people of his homeland.

There are three principal religions represented in The Shadow Bride: Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity. Conflicting religious faiths keep the different ethnic groups divided. The African Americans of Guiana are predominantly Christian, while the East Indians are either Hindu or Muslim and are divided among themselves by religious differences. Betta tries to believe in each of the religions in turn, and he even toys with the idea of converting to Christianity, but he finds that his scientific education has made it impossible for him to accept any religion purely on faith.

Heath’s message is that there are no easy solutions to the problems that beset the people of his native land. Each individual...

(The entire section is 494 words.)