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Some important quotes from Maud Martha are as follows:

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But now part of it was going home, as she was, and its face was dull again. It had not been helped. Not truly. Not well. For a hot half hour, it had put that light gauze across its little miseries and monotonies, but now here they were again, ungauzed, self-assertive, cancerous as ever (Chapter 6).

This quote highlights the double consciousness conundrum that afflicts African Americans. The term "double consciousness" was first coined by W. E. B. Du Bois in his treatise "Strivings of the Negro People." In this essay, Du Bois laments that the "double self" receives acceptance from neither whites nor blacks.

In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He does not wish to Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa; he does not with to bleach his Negro blood in a flood of white Americanism, for he believes—foolishly, perhaps, but fervently—that Negro blood has yet a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without losing the opportunity of self-development (Du Bois).

In the quote from Maud Martha, we see this conflict at play. Maud has just witnessed a performance at the Regal Theater. The singer, a "tall, oily, brown thing," has just finished singing, and the audience erupts in raucous applause. Maud, however, remains unimpressed. She muses that the performance, full of pretentious affectations, will never solve anyone's "miseries and monotonies." It is at best a form of escapism. Away from the theater, personal conflicts arise once more. They remain "self-assertive" and as "cancerous as ever."

As Maud Martha navigates a world constrained by racism, she notices this "double consciousness" at play. Everyone acts a part, and uncertainty reigns. The questions remain. How does one reconcile the desire to be accepted with the longing for self-differentiation? More importantly, how does one accomplish this feat without incurring trauma to one's self (the "cancerous" burdens that Maud mentions)?

There was no consolation in the thought that not now and not then would she have had Emmanuel "off a Christmas tree." For the basic situation had never changed. Helen was still the one they wanted in the wagon, still "the pretty one," "the dainty one." The lovely one.

In this quote, Maud's grief is evident. She tells us about the "Emmanuels" of the world, the men who always prefer lighter-skinned women. The name "Emmanuel" is significant. In the Christian faith, it refers to the son of God, Jesus Christ. The name also means "God with us." When Emmanuel bypasses Maud for her sister, Helen, Maud feels the sting of rejection.

In Maud's experience, men act like the "lords of creation"; little "Emmanuels" reserve the right to reject her God-given skin color. Maud cannot even console herself with the knowledge that she would never...

(The entire section contains 780 words.)

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Critical Essays