To Da-duh in Memoriam

by Paule Marshall

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Examine Da-duh's role as an "ancestor" figure in "To Da-duh in Memoriam".

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Da-duh represents the ancestor figure, a popular character found in African American literature, because she is a symbol of the past, of wisdom, and of a culture’s heritage.  As the matriarch of the family, Da-duh represents a long line of tradition and culture, and that is why she tries so hard to convince her granddaughter of the wonders of Barbados.  However, Da-duh’s family, time, and tradition have moved on. Her daughter and granddaughters live in New York City, and the world has become more modern.  Barbados has been taken over by the English, and old traditions are quickly being replaced with new ones.   The granddaughter represents new ideas and lifestyles different than Da-duh’s. However, Da-duh’s wisdom and influence is still strong as she eventually convinces her granddaughter that Barbados is a unique place and culture.

Finding and understanding your roots is a major theme in African American literature, and Da-duh symbolizes the granddaughter’s ability to do that when she dreams of Barbados and paints murals of Barbados’ beautiful landscape on her apartment walls.  Without Da-duh’s wisdom and teachings about Barbados, the granddaughter would not have learned about herself and her culture.  The main goal of an ancestor figure in literature is to help others find themselves through their traditional culture and values.

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