Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Corregidora tells the story of the far-reaching, destructive effects of nineteenth century bondage on the generations of African Americans whose ancestors were slaves in North and South America. Set in the American South in the middle of the twentieth century, the novel demonstrates that slavery was a system that not only confined blacks physically and economically but also led to their psychological and sexual demise. Written in a lyrical blues style, Corregidora expresses both the misery and the emotional release that African Americans continued to experience long after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in the United States.

Ursa’s story covers the twenty-year period during which she struggles to come to terms with her complex feelings for her first husband, Mutt. The story begins with an act of violence: Mutt pushes Ursa down a flight of stairs outside the bar where she works as a blues singer, causing her to lose their unborn child and be subjected to a hysterectomy. This act initiates the grieving period during which Ursa and Mutt are divorced and Ursa is sexually approached by both men and women, marries her longtime employer, and returns home to confront her mother about her matrilineage.

Ursa’s grieving process begins in the hospital. Although she still loves her husband, she divorces him. While in the hospital, she expresses herself violently by cursing Mutt and the entire hospital staff. Upon realizing that she had miscarried a child and lost her womb, Ursa goes into a deep depression because she can no longer “make generations” to bear witness to the devastation of slavery; she can no longer fulfill her “duty” as a Corregidora woman.

The other Corregidora women, her maternal ancestors, taught Ursa as a child to “make generations” of slave descendants to ensure that slavery would be remembered. These women told Ursa that when slavery ended in the 1800’s, all written proof of its existence and all written accounts of the inhuman atrocities perpetrated against slaves were destroyed. Without “the papers” to prove the existence of slavery and slave crimes, the Corregidora women warned, the memory of slavery could fade and the institution could be reenacted. Thus, after her hysterectomy, Ursa despairs not only over her lost child but also over her lost opportunity to bear others to...

(The entire section is 970 words.)