Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

When Avey was a girl, her Aunt Cuney called her to pass the cultural heritage from one generation to the next. Aunt Cuney would take Avey to the Landing and tell the story about the arrival of a shipload of Ibo slaves. At first, Avey answered her calling and told her brothers, but once her trips to Tatem Island stopped and after her adult attention shifted to achieving the American Dream, Avey sublimated what she had learned. The breach between Avey and her cultural heritage widened, and Avey stopped identifying with the struggles and concerns of other African Americans. She, along with her husband Jay, focused attention on material possessions and social status. Avey wrapped herself in her mink stole, attended social functions with her husband, and after his fatal stroke took Caribbean cruises with her friends. Voyages on a luxury liner and then on a flimsy schooner finally take Avey on a difficult yet successful journey back to her cultural origins.

During one voyage, aboard the Bianca Pride, Avey begins having troubling dreams about Aunt Cuney, and she remembers the early years of her marriage when she and her husband, though poor, were happy. She cannot recognize her image in mirrors, and the rich foods that are served, especially a peach parfait à la Versailles, are nauseating. Avey tries to regain her composure by seeking solitude. Despite her efforts, she cannot escape the crass materialism of the shipboard environment, which becomes overwhelmingly repulsive. She is horrified and outraged by one symbol of American society, a skeletal old man wearing red and white striped trunks and a blue visor who tugs at her skirt and invites her to have a seat beside him. Neither her friends’ protests nor the loss of the $1,500 fare for the cruise are enough to dissuade Avey from her decision to leave the ship and return to New York.

Avey thinks that she will be able to return to the comfort and familiarity of life in North White Plains. Her return is delayed because she arrives in Grenada too late to catch a plane that leaves once a day for New York City. While determining where she...

(The entire section is 863 words.)