At a Glance

Hazel is upset when her uncle, Hunca Bubba, announces that he's getting married and changing his name back to Jefferson Winston Vale. Hazel is sitting in the passenger's seat of Granddaddy Vale's car at the time, and she foregoes her duties as navigator to look at a picture of Hunca Bubba's bride. She's unimpressed.

  • The movie theatre in the background of the picture reminds Hazel of a time she went to the movies with Big Brood and Baby Jason. Hazel liked arguing with the theatre matrons and causing trouble. She especially liked buying Havmore chips and popping the bags in the middle of the theatre.
  • Hazel, Big Brood, and Baby Jason settle in to watch a movie called Gorilla, My Love. When the film starts rolling, however, they realize that they've been conned: the theatre is playing a film about Jesus instead. Hazel complains to the manager, but Big Brood doesn't back her up.
  • Hazel reveals that the reason she's upset about Hunca Bubba's marriage is because, years ago, when she was a little girl, he promised to marry her when she was old enough. He says he was just teasin', but Hazel calls him a liar. She realizes then and there that you can't trust adults.


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Hazel is a reappearing character in Bambara’s collection Gorilla, My Love, and in this title story, she is perturbed that her Hunca Bubba is getting married and changing his name back to its original Jefferson Winston Vale. The source of her dismay is delayed until the end of the story when it is revealed that Hunca Bubba had vowed to wait for Hazel to grow up in order for the two of them to marry. Whether the young girl ever took her uncle’s proposal seriously is unclear, but the deception has consequences. The sole female passenger in the company of three generations of male relatives, Hazel spends the drive time skeptically reexamining all the promises that adult males make to female children and all their specious claims, including religious ones.

She recalls an outing to a movie theater with her brothers in tow, again the lone female in a male group. In place of the thriller “Gorilla, My Love” advertised on the marquee, a film about the life of Jesus is projected onto the screen. Feeling swindled, the children scream their displeasure in the dark auditorium. Caught in the halo of the theater matron’s flashlight, they are escorted outside. Unable to recoup their money, a vengeful Hazel sets fire to the concession stand. Threatened with a beating, Hazel talks her father out of administering her punishment by proclaiming “if you say Gorilla My Love, you suppose to mean it.”

Hazel is assigned the task of guiding the...

(The entire section is 415 words.)


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Published in 1972, Gorilla, My Love is a collection of short stories written between 1959 and 1971. The book is an upbeat, positive work that redefines the black experience in America. It affirms the fact that inner-city children can grow into strong, healthy adults. It indicates clearly that black men are not always the weak, predatory element in the family but can be a strong, protective force. It intimates that African Americans are not the socially alienated, dysfunctional people that the mainstream society sometimes suggests. Instead, the stories project an image of a people who love themselves, who understand themselves, and who need no validation.

The fifteen short stories that compose the text are set in urban areas, and the narrative voices are usually streetwise, preadolescent girls who are extremely aware of their environment. The titular story, “Gorilla, My Love” is centered in the misunderstanding between a child and an adult. Jefferson Vale announces that he is getting married, but he has promised his preadolescent niece, Hazel, to marry her. Hazel sees her “Hunca” Bubba as a “lyin dawg.” Although her uncle and her grandfather attempt to console her, Hazel believes adults “mess over kids, just cause they little and can’t take em to court.”

All of the stories are informative and entertaining. A story that typifies the anthology is “Playin with Ponjob,” which details how a white social worker, Miss...

(The entire section is 445 words.)


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Hazel, a young African American girl living in a black neighborhood of New York City, describes riding in a car with her Granddaddy Vale, her little brother, and her uncle—whom she has called “Hunca Bubba” since she was very little. As she sits in the front seat, she listens to Hunca Bubba describe the woman he loves. As he talks, Hazel recalls an incident that occurred the previous Easter when she and her brothers, Big Brood and Baby Jason, went to see a film that the theater billed as Gorilla, My Love.

As Hazel and her brothers settled down in their theater seats with potato chips and jawbreakers, a tattered, brown old film called The King of Kings (1927) came on the screen. The children yelled, booed, and stomped their feet until “Thunderbuns,” the matron, settled them down. Despite their protests, they never got to see the gorilla film. Hazel demanded that the manager give them back their money, expressing her outrage at adults who are “messin over kids just cause they little and can’t take em to court.” When the manager refused, Hazel set a fire under the candy stand that caused the theater to close down for a week. She later defended her action by saying that a person should keep his word, “If you say Gorilla, My Love, you suppose to mean it.”

Hazel now asks her uncle if he plans to marry the woman he has been telling her about. When he says yes, she asks him if he remembers that when she was little he promised to marry her when she grew up. Hunca Bubba explains that she was just a little girl then and that he was merely teasing. Realizing that what she took seriously was just a joke to her uncle, Hazel cries. She feels betrayed by grownups who do not keep their word. She finds Hunca Bubba’s betrayal much more painful to accept than the false advertising of the film.

Extended Summary

As ‘‘Gorilla, My Love’’ opens, a first-person narrator says, ‘‘That was the year Hunca Bubba changed his name.’’ It soon becomes clear that the speaker is a young person, but not until the story is nearly over is it revealed that she is a girl, and that her name is Hazel. In the opening scene, Hazel is riding in a car with her Granddaddy Vale, her Hunca Bubba (Uncle Bubba) and her younger brother, Baby Jason. They have been on a trip South to bring pecans back home. Granddaddy Vale is driving, Hazel is navigating from the front seat and therefore is called ‘‘Scout’’ during the trip, and Hunca Bubba and Baby Jason are sitting in the back with the buckets of dusty pecans. Hunca Bubba, who has decided that it is time he started using his given name, Jefferson Winston Vale, is in love, and will not stop talking about the woman he loves. He has a photo of her, and the movie theater in the photo’s background catches Hazel’s attention because she is ‘‘a movie freak from way back.’’

This launches Hazel into a long digression, told in the past tense, that makes up most of the story— almost five of the story’s seven and a half pages. In this story-within-the-story, Hazel, Baby Jason, and their brother Big Brood go to the movies on Easter Sunday. Apparently, they go to the movies quite frequently; they know all of the theaters within walking distance of their home in northern New York City, and what each is showing. They have already seen all of the Three Stooges films. The Washington Theater on Amsterdam Avenue is advertising a film called Gorilla, My Love, and they decide to see that. They buy bags of potato chips (choosing the brand that makes the loudest noise when the bag is popped) and settle in. However, when the movie starts it is not Gorilla, My Love but King of Kings, a movie about the life of Jesus.

The children go wild, ‘‘Yellin, booin, stompin and carryin on’’...

(The entire section is 674 words.)