Heads of the Colored People

by Nafissa Thompson-Spires

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Discuss the imagery related to religion in the story “Not Today, Marjorie” from Heads of the Colored People. How does Marjorie’s faith relate to her ability to cope or not cope?

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The imagery related to religion in the story “Not Today, Marjorie” depicts Marjorie as a frustrated Christian, a Christlike figure, and a priest.

The first religious imagery in the story occurs when the narrator explains that Marjorie attends and volunteers at a big church with more than 10,000 members. This image shows that Marjorie can “be perfectly fine in crowds,” and so that’s not the issue with the dreaded DMV visit. Although, Marjorie is frustrated that more people don’t acknowledge her work.

As the story unfolds, the religious imagery builds on Marjorie’s frustrations and brings in her traumatic childhood. The volunteering “stifled” Marjorie’s desire to have children since the kids she was trying to help acted “like wild animals” and “had the nerve to complain” about what they received. Later, there’s the imagery of Mother Lydia, a religious woman, burning Marjorie for the misbehavior of her foster sisters. This connects religion to trauma and Marjorie to a Christlike figure since she must suffer for the sins of others.

Finally, Marjorie is depicted as a religious figure—a priest—as she loses her cool and starts to yell at the DMV employee. The story ends with the customer lines parting “to form a congregation around Majorie’s pulpit.” Thus, it appears as if Marjorie’s faith doesn’t help her cope, but it does turn her into a galvanizing Christian leader—at least in the context of the DMV.

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