Maud Martha Analysis

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In Blyden Jackson’s 1953 review of Gwendolyn Brooks’ first novel, he asked, “just what kind of novel is Maud Martha?” (Jackson 436). Maud Martha possesses aspects of the novel such as setting, characters, and relationships between those characters. However, though the novel is linear, there is no defining plot. Instead, we are presented with a series of lyric vignettes. There is no specific drama, no propelling action which can clearly define Maud Martha as a traditional novel. Yet, throughout literary history, we find that the novel does not mandate one particular structure, style, or subject matter. So while the genre of Maud Martha is a novel, the style and technique in which it is executed, are poetic. In this poetic novel, Maud Martha …show more content…
(299)
We can assume that this passage is from the hat woman’s perspective, a woman who earlier in the chapter, displays racist thoughts (296-7). The passage shows how Maud Martha is considered by society. The repetition of the word, “their,” indicates a possession that does not belong to Maud Martha and deliberately emphasizes what she lacks. According to this hat woman, beauty, elegance, and allurements do not belong to Maud Martha.
The theme of transcendence is made clear through the use of epistrophe. In opposition to anaphora, epistrophe is a “rhetorical figure by which the same word or phrase is repeated at the end of successive clauses, sentences, or lines” (Baldick). For instance, when Emmanuel refers to Maud Martha as an ‘“old black gal,’” preferring her sister, Helen, over her, Maud Martha struggles to understand (176). She begins to compare herself with Helen, distinguishing the slight differences by
…show more content…
At the same time, it does not give the reader a moment to pause, to consider the content, so that by the time we get to “puzzles and rocking horses,” we remember little of what came before. Yet, it is the second sentence, “And Santa Claus,” which forces us to pause. After a long and winding series of conjunctions, readers are forced to consider this single-sentence paragraph of a mere three words. As the chapter continues, we become aware that this is a significant moment for Maud Martha, as she will try to shield her daughter, Paulette, from a moment of racism. Not only does this moment stand out on the page in the second sentence of the chapter, but it is also a prominent moment for Maud Martha as well. Thus, by using polysyndeton, Brooks creates an important juxtaposition with the sentence, “And Santa Claus.” Brooks is able to use a poetic device to add emphasis to a moment of oppression in the

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