Discuss the character of Hazel in "My Man Bovanne" in relation to Hazel's question, "Is this what they call the generation gap?"Hazel's question precedes Elo's remark, "There’s no such thing as a...

Discuss the character of Hazel in "My Man Bovanne" in relation to Hazel's question, "Is this what they call the generation gap?"

Hazel's question precedes Elo's remark, "There’s no such thing as a black generation gap."

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Hazel is a simple woman without a polished education as her variety of English illustrates. She has raised three children and may have unsophisticated ways but remembers how to feel and demonstrate human decency and a respect for others. This idea is illustrated at the party when Hazel sees one person after another pass by old and blind Bovanne with a cheery greeting but without noticing he could use some food and something to drink, whereas Hazel extends him actual human interaction and kindness as is demonstrated by a dance she shares with him.

Hazel can tell a sincere person from an insincere person and wants nothing to do with the latter kind, which is illustrated by her refusal to talk to the Reverend, whom she believes is a hypocrite, about using the church basement for a "council of elders." The council of elders is a gesture that ostensibly incorporates more Africanism into African-American community life but is only a sham and in-name-only respect for elders as is illustrated by the outrageous, disrespectful, insulting, manipulative and unkind behavior of Hazel's children toward her, whom they deem lowly and ignorant.

It is this treatment of her that prompts Hazel's question, "Is this what they call a generation gap?"  Hazel says that at one time her children criticised her for being "countrified," but now they want to get back to their "roots" and now admire corn-row braids and "countrified" clothes. Hazel's question suggests that the generation gap is her children's inability to see beyond their own perspective; understand differences in people, even when the differences should be obvious and innocently acceptable, like the unusual movements of an old blind man; and the inability to understand and demonstrate the respect and generationalism they claim to want to foster and develop. Elo's response is a typically dismissive remark that proves Hazel's unspoken case:

"That's a white concept for a white phenomenon. There's no generation gap among Black people."

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