By Ana Nunes (auth.)
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Harper made use of dialect in an almost condescending manner to make clear the distance between the uneducated black masses and the educated and wellspoken mulattos. In her interest in black dialect and her attempts to capture it accurately, Walker was closer to Hurston than to any other writer. During the Harlem Renaissance, writers such as Jean Toomer and Hughes turned to folklore to help them define and establish their aesthetics. However, the publication of Toomer’s Cane in 1923 marked, as Friederike Hajek points out, “both a recognition of the richness of black southern oral heritage and its apparent dissolution.
She has not impaired her means of support or materially impaired her character, or lowered her station in society; she has done no great injury to herself, or any other human being. ”83 Against this, the body of the bondswoman— used in agricultural and domestic work, as a means of reproducing the slave labor force, and as means of social control to shield the white woman from the physical compulsions of the white man—is, as Walker exposes in Jubilee, a scarred body. “The bearing of children was” as Franklin and Moss declare, “[a] hard time for the slave women.
The names of the first two characters introduced illustrate this point. ”62 Both Tom’s and Lisa’s identities are defined by their slave status. Walker’s use of the epithets plays with the way whites imposed fixed identities on black people, robbing them of a sense of individuality. On the other hand, shattering the cast-iron mask presented to the master, Walker reveals the flesh, the personality, and the humanity of her characters. Accused of being careless and responsible for Hetta’s moribund state by a white doctor who came two days too late, Granny Ticey does not respond to the accusations.