In Gem of the Ocean, who is Black Mary?

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teachsuccess | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In Gem of the Ocean, Black Mary Wilks is Aunt Ester Tyler's housekeeper. She is also Caesar Wilks' sister. In the play, Caesar is a policeman, baker, and land-owner.

Black Mary finds it exasperating that in the three years she has served as housekeeper, her work has never been deemed satisfactory by Aunt Ester Tyler. She tells Aunt Tyler that if she is to stay on in her job, she must be allowed to do as she sees fit within the confines of her responsibilities. She is also Aunt Ester's protege; Aunt Ester is the keeper and protector of African-American memory and experience; she is also a well of wisdom and courage. Her home is a sanctuary for those who are troubled. She hopes to pass on all her skills to Black Mary when she dies.

Although Black Mary loves her brother, Caesar, she is deeply ashamed of his actions. When a black man named Garret Brown is accused of stealing a bucket of nails, Caesar chases him down; Garret jumps into the river. Caesar is rumored to have tried beating Garret over the head with a two by four when the frightened man refused to emerge from the river. Eventually, Garret drowns. Not satisfied, Caesar tries to stall Garret's funeral by going to the Reverend Flowers to tell him that it is against Christian law for Reverend Flowers to preside over Garret's funeral. Garret's funeral ends up being presided over by Reverend Tolliver.

Black Mary tells Caesar that she is so ashamed of him that she doesn't think of him as her brother anymore. To read more about the play, please refer to the link below.

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