(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Gayl Jones’s central intention is to expose the ways in which slavery destroyed the foundations for healthy sexual relationships among African Americans. Refusing to blame them for their damaged psychological state, she implies that the dysfunctionality of modern black America derives exclusively from the evils of slavery in the New World.

Jones’s major theme is that slavery destroyed the humanity of black men and black women. She demonstrates several layers of destruction in the character of Corregidora, who is physically dead in Ursa’s lifetime, but very much alive in her memory. First, Corregidora is destructive because he is jealous. His extreme possessiveness leads him to ravish his own daughters, even though incest is a universal cultural taboo. Through his incest, Corregidora dehumanizes himself as well as his daughters. Second, he is destructive because he is greedy. His insatiable desire for money and material possessions leads him to use his daughters, whom he also regards as his slave property, as prostitutes to gain additional wealth.

Corregidora further destroys his daughters’ morality by instilling in them a false sense of superiority over other slaves, especially others who are darker skinned. This, in turn, destroys the likelihood that his daughters will form constructive alliances with other blacks. Consequently, they do not have a positive relationship with the very people who could help them to fight against their enslavement and oppression. As he destroys his daughters’ sense of self-worth and their self-love, Corregidora creates an unnatural hierarchy among the slaves. This false hierarchy, based on skin color, engenders disharmony, mistrust, elitism, and false pride. Jones moves...

(The entire section is 710 words.)