Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Corregidora is both an exploration of how sexual and other relationships between men and women can become a battleground for domination and an examination of the ways in which violence done by one generation can continue to inflict itself on future generations.

Throughout the novel, the stories of Ursa’s ancestors are told repeatedly in flashbacks and are identified by the use of italics. These are not the only italicized sections, however; many of Ursa’s memories of Mutt are also presented in italics. This emphasizes the confusion of Ursa’s feelings toward Mutt and Corregidora. This confusion is exacerbated by Mutt’s insulting and abusive actions toward Ursa, actions that recall Corregidora’s treatment of Great Gram and Gram. Even when Ursa and Mutt meet after many years, the sex act between them that closes the novel has an element of hostility that makes Ursa begin to reflect on the inevitability of antagonism between men and women in a sexual relationship.

The issue of slavery is not nearly so thoroughly investigated in Corregidora, but it is the relationship that establishes the pattern for Ursa’s understanding of male-female relationships. Great Gram and Gram were owned by Corregidora, and thus he had control over them. Great Gram’s sexuality (which Corregidora also tried to control) was the only ability she could use as a weapon against him. Because the records of Corregidora’s Brazilian prostitution...

(The entire section is 464 words.)

Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Corregidora treats four major themes with sensitivity and compassion. Foremost among these is the living charge given Ursa to “make generations,” to reproduce children who will bear witness and testify to the legacy of slavery. A second theme evolves from this, asking how a woman without a womb is to fulfill her commitment to her forebears. As Jones allows Ursa to work this problem out in context, one sees a third theme arising from Ursa’s efforts to adapt to a new responsibility, the restoration and re-energizing of her spirit, the care of her own life. Yet, Ursa must confront the past, probe it, read its messages and its silences before she can let it go and allow the psychic wound to heal. Finally, Ursa must confront the sexual and psychosexual tensions which are the result of both her heritage and her immediate personal relationships.

Readers coming to the novel for the first time quickly note the unusual frankness with which Jones treats her subject matter; her use of explicit detail and concrete, realistic dialogue set the novel apart. Because of the painful sexual tension between Ursa and her husbands, some readers have seen the novel as a strident feminist piece attacking black men. A more balanced reading indicates that because of her historical legacy, because of the living witnesses who tutored her, because of the psychosexual indictments against men, as personified by Corregidora, embedded in her consciousness, Ursa Corregidora was bound to feel ambivalent about men. Such ambivalence was inevitably heightened after her fall. Corregidora is a story of lust and love, of failing and caring, of love and hate, of violence and tenderness, of love lost, of the pleasure and the pain involved in the blues.