Gorilla, My Love Summary
by Toni Cade Bambara

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Gorilla, My Love Summary

"Gorilla, My Love" is a short story by Toni Cade Bambara in which Hazel is upset when her uncle announces that he's getting married.

  • Hazel's beloved uncle Hunca Bubba announces that he is getting married, much to Hazel's dismay.
  • Hazel recalls an incident at a movie theater where the theater showed a different film than the one she and her brothers came to see, leading Hazel to mistrust adults.
  • Hazel reveals that she is upset about Hunca Bubba's marriage because he once jokingly promised to marry Hazel. Hazel took him seriously, and views his engagement as further proof that adults cannot be trusted.

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(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 men’s drive home after a day of pecan picking, but it is an adult responsibility she rejects. Positioned in the passenger seat beside her grandfather who steers, she holds the map but offers no directions. The adult males call her pet names like “Peaches” and “Scout” in an effort to get her to assist them, but she dismisses their efforts at appeasement. Instead she claims her own identity and independence by pronouncing herself “Hazel” and lets them drive where they will.

Trust is a central issue in this story about the disillusionment of youth. When lies are commonplace and deceit practiced openly, adults and their sugar-coated words cannot be trusted. Hazel’s extreme anguish at story’s end is her response to the news of her uncle’s impending marriage and to her perceived abandonment, but it indicates her greater loss of faith in men’s honor. Skeptical of their promises, she plots a new course through their world, proceeding cautiously and navigating solo.


(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...

(The entire section is 1,864 words.)