Themes and Meanings
Much of the world of Mama Day is fictitious, even mythical, in a manner reminiscent of William Faulkner’s fictional Yoknapatawpha County. Naylor even provides her readers with a map of the offshore island between Georgia and South Carolina, but the island, connected to the mainland by a tenuous bridge, seems otherworldly, a matriarchal paradise. The bridge becomes a passage to a mainland world, which Willow Springs residents distrust: “And we done learned that anything coming from beyond the bridge gotta be viewed real, real careful.” The mainland is the source of real estate developers and education that distances students from reality and truth. Miranda cites the example of “Reema’s boy,” the African American anthropologist whose university education has rendered him unable to listen and to understand. Naylor’s readers face a similar task; they read a story that defies logic and are asked to listen and believe, just like George and Ophelia.
Despite the family tree, the bill of sale, and the map, the story of George and Ophelia changes, not for readers so much as for the tellers; as Ophelia says, “there are just too many sides to the whole story.” As Miranda tells about Sapphira Wade, she includes different versions about the death of Sapphira’s husband, Bascombe Wade—Sapphira either poisoned him or stabbed him. However, there is a core of meaning, just as there is a core of meaning in Mama Day, and Naylor invites...
(The entire section is 441 words.)