In Marked by Fire’s people-centered society, characters speak in dialect. They use double comparisons such as “more deeper” to get across a point. Older women rehash the day while rocking on porches in the evening. Men do their gossiping at the barbershop, but people of both sexes seem to know everything there is to know about everyone else. Women help with birth and are involved in the care and discipline of children.
The heroine, Abyssinia Jackson, stands as a symbol of the universality of black experience. Long ago an African kingdom called Abyssinia became known as Ethiopia, a name derived from a root meaning “burned faces.” As a newborn baby, Abby was burned by a tiny ember which left a permanent scar on her face. In conjunction with the book’s title, her name suggests that all black people carry this mark of fire, even though the scar may not be visible.
Abby is a highly intelligent, musically talented daredevil who often gets into trouble. She watches films and soap operas on television and retells the folktales heard from her elders. Her physical description is somewhat sketchy. She has tiny hands and feet. She is neat, wears French braids in six separate plaits, and is skinny. Her parents are seen mostly through the eyes of others, and her father takes center stage, even though he disappears for a good part of the story.
Patience, Abby’s mother, can pick two hundred pounds of cotton in a day, is an...
(The entire section is 563 words.)