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What women want : independence through embracing the inner spirit in Gloria Naylor's Bailey 's Cafe

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Okusko, Jaimie
Crawford, Norlisha
MA, English
Apr 2011
African Americans in literature; Women, Black, in literature; African American women in literature; American fiction- 20th century; Gender identity in literature
This thesis project explores the objectification of black feminized characters in Gloria Naylor's Bailey's Cafe, and the ways that they resist negative representations to gain agency. Naylor's novel gives a complex picture of the historically limited choices of identity that black women have faced. Each character depicts a different approach to the black female body and its domination by patriarchal society. Moreover, through her novel Naylor investigates many different traditions in which individuals come to understand the power of their inner spirit and how they use their understanding of that spirituality to find peace of mind, pride, and beauty. It is important to explore Naylor's novel because in U.S. society men are allowed more freedom of expression, sexually, than women. When women attempt to express that they enjoy sex and find fulfillment in their sexual identities, in a fashion similar to many men, they are viewed as promiscuous and deemed unfit, rather than applauded and encouraged. My interest in this subject began through my studies in Gender in Literature and Feminist Criticisms classes. To pursue this project the fields of feminism, blues music, African-American culture, sexuality, and gender were researched through a number of avenues including books, journals, newspapers, scholarly criticisms, and a review of graduate class lectures. Through redefining and adapting their own Christian spirituality, however, they begin to live rich, if unconventional, lives on their own terms. In Bailey's Cafe inner spirituality comes in many forms including, but not limited to sexuality, gender definition, self love, and self acceptance. Furthermore, by redefining that which society has deemed unfit and embracing their inner spirituality, Naylor's characters have gained individuality and independence.
A Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts-English
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