(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Jessie Redmon Fauset’s use of the nursery rhyme “To market to market/ To buy a plum bun;/ Home again, home again,/ Market is done” characterizes the compromises that women make in order to be suitable marriage material. Although Angela Murray transforms herself into the perfect woman, her efforts go unrewarded because she assumes that passing for white will destroy the restrictions of racial discrimination. The subplots regarding her mother, Mattie, and Anthony Cross contribute to an understanding of the depth and complexity of Angela’s anxieties regarding her status as a black person and as a woman.

Mattie Murray, a mulatta, married a dark-skinned man because his color meant that she could enjoy the protection and privilege of middle-class black life in Philadelphia. Still, Mattie cannot divorce herself from a psychological need to pass for white. Her seemingly harmless trips into the white world with Angela point to the discomfort that blacks feel even though they have achieved a certain level of financial security and social prestige. An aura of mainstream respectability that includes hard work and religious devotion surrounds the Murray family, but they are constantly aware that their lives are defined by skin color. Angela’s discomfort is magnified by her move to New York, where she chooses to change her name to Angèle Mory and live not in Harlem, with most black New Yorkers, but in Greenwich Village, where broad-minded white artists and...

(The entire section is 573 words.)