Gorilla, My Love Analysis

  • "Gorilla, My Love" is the title story in a collection written by Toni Cade Bambara, an African American writer and professor who was active in the Black Arts movement of the 1960s. Bambara was also interested in feminism and wrote many of her short stories from the point of view of a sassy black girl named Hazel.
  • "Gorilla, My Love" is notable for its use of dialect. Bambara used the rhythm and the colloquialisms of the African American dialect to develop the narrative voice, which is at once sassy, familiar, and sharp.
  • Respect is an important theme in the short story. In Hazel's mind, adults who lie to children are merely using their age as an excuse to be disrespectful to kids. Hazel feels wronged by the adults in the story, who consistently lie to her and tease her "and don't even say they sorry." 


(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Gorilla, My Love is a collection of fifteen short stories told in the first person by female narrators who show the daily lives of ordinary people living in the black neighborhoods of Brooklyn, Harlem, and other sections of New York City, as well as parts of the rural South. As Toni Cade Bambara celebrates the life in these communities, she captures the culture, the traditions, and the unique speech patterns of the people who make up these neighborhoods.

The first story, “My Man Bovanne,” deals with the generation gap that exists between Hazel, the older female narrator, and her children, who have become involved in the Black Power movement. In casting off their slave names for African names, the young people seem to be rejecting the values of the older people in their community. As Miss Hazel dances with Bovanne, the old blind man in the neighborhood, her children express their disapproval of their mother’s actions and style of dress. For Miss Hazel, Bovanne, who used to fix skates for the children in the neighborhood, represents a familiar presence in a changing world.

Disillusionment as a part of growing up is the theme of three stories. In “Gorilla, My Love,” Hazel, the young female narrator, must face the pain of realizing that her uncle—who jokingly promised to marry her when she grew up— is preparing to marry someone else. The story begins when Hazel and her friends are disgusted after they pay for tickets to see a film that the marquee advertised as Gorilla, My Love, only to be shown King of Kings, an old motion picture about Jesus. The story deals with the children’s sense of betrayal when grown-ups do not keep their word. For Hazel, her uncle’s betrayal is much more painful to accept than the false advertising of the film.

Another type of disillusionment takes place in the frequently anthologized story “The Lesson.” The narrator is Sylvia, a tough, sassy, bright young girl whose class takes a field trip to F. A. O. Schwartz, an upscale toy store. Bambara...

(The entire section is 829 words.)