What are some themes in Mama Day besides the supernatural?

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There are a lot of themes in Mama Day , even if they aren't the most prevalent ones. An important one that runs throughout the novel is self-image. Cocoa's perception of herself is very important; it colors a lot of the interactions that occur and gives the reader a sense...

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There are a lot of themes in Mama Day, even if they aren't the most prevalent ones. An important one that runs throughout the novel is self-image. Cocoa's perception of herself is very important; it colors a lot of the interactions that occur and gives the reader a sense of how she sees the world. Cocoa views herself as superior to others in the same position as her. She says, "I out-and-out resented the phonies, and when I could pick one out I felt a little better about myself. At least I was being real: I didn't have a job, and wanted one—badly" (15). So, right from the beginning, we see how Cocoa's superiority colors her attitude. She seems to think she holds a moral high ground. Although the "phonies" are also looking for jobs (just like her), she says being "real" is better. This could just be a defense mechanism to protect against the disappointment that is being jobless, but, at any rate, it does certainly play a large part in the novel as a whole.

Cocoa's idea of herself as better than others comes up again in an argument with her mother when she proclaims, "But I am not a child anymore—do you hear me? I am not a child. I'll pack my things and leave tomorrow. If I have to be treated this way, I'll never set foot in this damn island again until it's time to come to your funeral" (156). Being perceived accurately and respected is very important to Cocoa, seemingly more important than familial bonds. In this argument, we see that Cocoa's wanting to be the quintessential "adult" (i.e., one who is employed) is under threat from the way her mother treats her, and that results in explosive anger. Again, this can be seen as a defense mechanism against the harsh reality of a life that's not as good as Cocoa feels she deserves. But it is also important, in this scene, to see the thread of self-image that shapes how Cocoa interacts with others. She constantly has to defend her life to herself and to others, and this struggle with self-identity really becomes a shaping theme to the story as a whole.

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There is only one other main theme in Mama Day, by Gloria Naylor, than the one of the supernatural. The other main theme in the text is one of cultural heritage.

Normally, one's cultural heritage is either accepted and revered or rejected and ignored. In Mama Day, Cocoa must come to terms with the fact that she cannot escape from her cultural identity and cultural heritage. The fact that the Day family adheres to the traditions of their family's past shows the respect that they have for their own cultural heritage and identity. In over half the book, Cocoa (trying to come to terms with her past through escape) realizes that she must learn to accept and embrace her past in order to find the inner peace she is so desperately searching for.

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