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Mar. 2009, Volume 7, No.3 (Serial No.

66)

US-China Foreign Language, ISSN 1539-8080, USA

Discourse in Daughters based on Bakhtins theory


LIU Hong-xiao
(College of Foreign Languages, Tianjin Polytechnic University, Tianjin 300387, China)

Abstract: Paule Marshall is now acclaimed an important writer in contemporary black literature, though long neglected in scholarly literary circles. Her works delineate the emotional growth and especially in her fourth novel Daughters the self-consciousness of independence of black women who have discovered and accepted their heritage from which the author goes out to seek back the equal and cooperative relationship between the black men and women ever supporting their resistance to oppressions to promote the development of the black community. In light of Bakhtins theory, this thesis expounds discourse from double direct and metaphor to explore the protagonist Ursas development of consciousness of independence from the influence of her parents, her boyfriend and other black women and further examines the alienated relations between the black men and women. Key words: Paule Marshall; Daughters; Bakhtins theory; discourse

1. Introduction
Among the foremost female West Indian American writers today, Paule Marshalls fourth novel Daughters (1991) has drawn only modest analytical studies. In the Pettis and Baer interviews prior to the novels publication, Marshall points out the themes in her novel Daughters of seduction, dependency, and dominance and the struggle for liberation from domination. The Dance and Graulich/Sisco interviews, conducted soon after the novels publication, concern a sketchy overview of the novels structure and its major characters and conflicts and an observation concerning the role of the references to Afro-American and Caribbean history and cultural traditions. In Bernhard Melchiors Re/Visioning the self away from home: Autobiographical and cross-cultural dimensions in the works of Paule Marshall published in 1998, the narratives cross-cultural design and the contexts of the protagonist Ursas cross-cultural existence in two worlds are expounded. The novel intertwines the culture of African Americans in the United States and in the West Indies, deftly shifting back and forth between New York City, home of Ursa Beatrice Mackenzie, a Black Diaspora in the Midland, and the Caribbean island Triunion, Ursas birthplace and home of her father, a political reformer known simply as the PM, and her American-born mother Estelle. When the story opens, Ursa has just had an abortion and is about to end a stagnant relationship with her long-time boyfriend. She is recalled to Triunion by her mother Estelle in an attempt to deter the PM from performing the scheme at the cost of communitys interest, resulting in his failure in election. With numerous complexes, engaging portraits of the people of Triunion, Marshall employs in search of personal wholeness and spiritual sustenance the basic cross-cultural constellation narrative framework through metaphoric discourse and discourse by questioning quarrelling and debating. Since her independent discourse finally establishes through clashes with other characters discourse, each of which comprises one ingredient of the authors, discourse in Daughters echoes in Bakhtins narrative theory.
LIU Hong-xiao, associate professor of College of Foreign Languages, Tianjin Polytechnic University; research field: American literature. 1

Discourse in Daughters based on Bakhtins theory

2. Double-voiced discourse
Paule Marshall utilizes a polyphonic method to incorporate multiple and independent consciousnesses into the text as a key artistic device, and double-directed discourse to subvert the monologic point of view of hegemonic thought, language and culture. In Gardiners words,
Monologism, a concept that was anticipated in such earlier notions as theoreticism and epistemologism, describes a condition wherein the matrix of ideological values, signifying practices, and creative impulses that constitute the living reality of language are subordinated to the hegemony of a single, unified consciousness or perspective (Gardine, 2003, p. XX)

According to Bakhtin (1984, p. 199), double-voiced discourse is discourse with an orientation towards someone elses discourse classified into three types: unidirectional double-voiced discourse, vari-directional double-voiced discourse, and the active type (reflected discourse of another). The first type consists of such elements as stylization, narrators narration, unobjectified discourse of a character that carries out (in part) the authors intentions, and Ich-Erzahlung. When objectification is reduced, these tend toward a fusion of voices, i.e., toward direct, unmediated discourse, as an expression of the speakers ultimate semantic authority. The second is parodistic with all its nuances, narration, and Ich-Erzahlung. A characters discourse is parodically represented and someone elses word transmitted with a shift in accent. When objectification is reduced and the others idea activated, these become internally dialogized and tend to disintegrate into two voices. The third is hidden internal polemic in any discourse with a sideward glance at someone elses word, a rejoinder of a dialogue and hidden dialogue. The other discourse exerts influence from without diverse forms of interrelationship with anothers discourse are possible here, as well as various degrees of deforming influence exerted by one discourse on the other. Bakhtins interpretation on the interrelationship of the aforementioned types is flexible. In his words,
A concrete discourse may belong simultaneously to different varieties and even types. Moreover, interrelationships with another persons discourse in a concrete living context are of a dynamic and not a static character: the interrelationship of voices in discourse may change drastically, unidirectional words may turn into vari-directional ones, internal dialogization may become stronger or weaker, a passive type may be activized, and so forth. (1984, p. 199)

Discourse finds its way in a two-fold direction in artistic-speech phenomena: stylization, parody and dialogue. It is directed both toward the referential object of speech, as in ordinary discourse, and toward anothers discourse, toward someone elses speech (Bakhtin, 1984, p. 185). Stylization possesses in direct and unmediated object-oriented discourse, a direct and unmediated intentionality expresses an ultimate semantic authority, and also makes its object represented objectified discoursethe direct speech of a character. Within the limits of a single context, the direct speech of a character conveys two speech centers and two speech unities: the unity of the authors utterance and that of the characters. But the latter observes only a certain distance and perspective and serves as an element to be incorporated into the former as one of its components. Stylization forces another persons referential intention to serve as its new intentions. For one instance, PMs claim on his marriage that he went out and found (his wife) in America is only an imitation of his mothers conventional values on material wealth under then colonial dominant. His unconditional imitation predetermines the material pursuit in their marriage and later in his political career. For another, Vineys purchase of the old brown house in the black neighborhood, a copy of her previous generations dream. Ursas disapproval foreshadows the disillusionment of her pursuit. Here the protagonist Ursas discourse is treated precisely as someone elses discourse, as an object of the authorial understanding and not from the point of view of its own referential intention. The point to which she perceives may well in the money waste Viney invests.
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Discourse in Daughters based on Bakhtins theory

The authors discourse, however, is treated stylistically as discourse directed toward its own straightforward referential meaning. Authorial discourse is characteristic for a specific person, a specific social position, or a specific artistic manner. Bakhtin points out that in contrast to stylization parody introduces into that discourse a semantic intention that is directly opposed to the original one (Bakhtin, 1984, p. 193). No fusion of voices possible as in stylization, the voices in parody are not only isolated from one another, separated by a distance, but are hostilely opposed. The perceptibility of the others discourse must be particularly sharp and clearly marked. Likewise, the authors intentions must be more individualized and filled with specific content (Bakhtin, 1984, p. 193). Estelles vision of her marriage is a case in point. Ironically, she esteems the marriage as the incarnation of the vision and sacrifice of Congo Jane and Will Cudjoe. Eventually, the purpose that he went and found (her) in America is not for independence of the Triunion people but for his material wealth and power. In a hidden polemic the authors discourse is directed toward its own referential object, as is any other discourse. A polemic blow is indirectly struck at the others discourse on the same theme, at the others statement about the same object. The other words are treated antagonistically, and this antagonism determines the authors discourse. Viney, sister/friend of Ursa, who is the godmother of the formers son, keeps the most intimate relationship between them. The former seems in every way the latter admires but the latter approves none: the different taste for scarf, Ursas disapproval of buying that old brown house, her anxiety about his sons education, and dissent from her on her relationship with Lowell, as represented in the end:
Viney speaking of Lowel in this strange way, without her customary distain and the lip. She had stood over by the door, her attach case at her side, dressed in the killer clothes she wore to workanother Congo Jane who loved pretty thingshad stood there pleading Lowells cause. (Marshall, 1992, pp. 381-382) Double-voiced discourse, as Bakhtin asserts, inevitably arises under conditions of dialogic interaction, that is, under conditions making possible an authentic life for the word. (Bakhtin, 1984, p. 184) The public and private spheres of discourse of Black womens lives inform our struggle for self-definition and personal respect in relation to the complexities of American life and culture. (Davis, 2002, p. 36)

3. Metaphoric discourse
Metaphor, based on condensation, and multidimensional images for their referents, delights in defining similarity out of contraries producing the distancing necessary for critical scrutiny (Willis, 1990, pp. 20-21).
Discourse provides not only a space for experiencing and remembering, but also repudiating the myths and stereotypes of Black womens existence while recording our historical contributions on the contours of American life (Davis, 2002, p. 36).

The narrative concerning the statue of Will Cudjoe and Congo Jane serves as one metaphoric discourse. As an enslaved couple spurning bondage to become co leaders, coconspirators, lovers, consorts, and friends, their partnership, on the one hand, exemplifies the perfect male-female relationship, to illuminate the search for independence, equality, and selfhood undertaken by many African American women. Furthermore, they metaphorically incarnate the value of community and of Triunions historical resistance. On the other hand, the statue is deliberately set up in a remote, isolated mountain area, intended to avoid offending the white investors. Whats worse, Ursas senior thesis outline is rejected for the praising theme of the couple Will Cudjoe and Congo Jane by her white tutor whom she thought to have liberal spirit. Marshall employs the West Indian legend of Congo Jane and Will Cudjoe as the resistance that is the legacy of
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Discourse in Daughters based on Bakhtins theory

descendants of Africans in the Caribbean to trace the cooperative political ventures of Estella and Primus and aliened relationship between the black male and female. Estella initially views her marriage to Primus as a union of romance and politics as an incarnation of Congo Jane and Will Cudjoe. Not a born native and socially aliened, she remains isolated on the island despite her supportive involvement in Primuss social and political affairs and some recognition from the local population for her practical engagement. The recurrent miscarriages and his problematic affairs with Astral prior to Ursas birth put a strain on their relationship. The airport episode portrays Estellas resistance and struggle against the loss of her identity in both social and political situations and Primuss dominance in their relationship. Though in interdependent relationship in both private and public issues, Estella never succeeds in influencing Primus except Ursas education. For one instance, she protests against being instrumentalized for the projects of P and D Board. For another, he expresses his guilty feeling when hurting her and apologizes for it, but does not admit to his affairs with Astral nor relinquish his sexual option. Estella challenges his patronage in several unsuccessful attempts. She is reluctant to attend the reception and argues over the P and D Board, resulting in failing to change his mind and she gives in. After another attempt to attack the corrupt remnants of his political activity at the reception and outburst the pains in their marriage outside the building, Estella chooses not to fight in public. On the other hand, she keeps denouncing his collaboration with the P and D Board and exerts pressure over the locality of his resort scheme at home. All the aforementioned protests lead to the climactic act of subverting his dominance in election in the collaboration with her daughter. Education schemed by her mother Estelle, Ursa is, on the one hand, imbued deeply with Africana consciousness by her hair cropped into Afro style and the experience of being taken to pay homage to statues of Will Cudjoe and Congo Jane in her childhood. On the other hand, American consciousness as well is developed by her education in Connecticut and living with her maternal parents there and later alone in New York. Understanding of the two worlds leads to her ultimate reconciliation with Astral and to the returning of the spirit of the community. Abortions undertaken by Astral Dolores Forde, Estelle and Ursa are established as the other metaphoric discourse, thematically signifying ruptured relationships. Marshall reinforces the significance of the discourse on procreation by the remake of Ursas visit to the abortion clinic for juxtaposing the narratives two worlds in Tiunion and American urban ghettoes. The three crucial women, all linked to Primus Mackenzie, the dominant polestar, go out to voice their resistance to the oppression in gender, race and class. Astral Forde, Primus Machenzies lover, has an unequal and one-way dependent relationship with him, whose abortion, clinically induced but crudely performed, is depicted in several kinds of metaphoric discourse. Her abortion is a parody of Ursas visit to the abortion clinic in the narrative first appears at the beginning of Book II and a metaphor of the failure of White values in Africana community to reveal the oppression of class, gender and race. A smart and pretty but orphaned country girl, Astral has various lovers before Primus, all helping her advance in the work place for the compensation with her body. Her forced abortion suggests her incapability of getting rid of the dominance and violence of exploitation by the oppressive hierarchies by producing silence, division and invisibility. Her miserable feeling as if the tool of extraction were left inside her body alludes to an instrument she is degraded by the exploiters for the ruptured relationship. Her abortion, resulting from her date-rape by a boy at a dance paralleled with the rape of the mare in Mackenzie yard and a servant image after Ursas birth in the public comprises the resistance discourse to expose the inhumanity of the classical, sexual and racial oppression. Her experience suggests that little or no opportunity for womans financial autonomy offers itself except through the intercession of a man, who then expects sexual favors (Hunter, 2008, p. 255). Intrigued by common origin and her beauty and business competence, the relationship between her and Primus is characterized as a perfect
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Discourse in Daughters based on Bakhtins theory

match both sexually and culturally before the birth of his daughter Ursa. After that, she is degraded as an instrument and forced into the role of servant and claque (Marshall, 1992, p. 208). Astral, from economically and culturally deprived Triunion, is not only the emblematic of the wasted potential of poor island women exploited by gender and class as Joyce Pettis claims, but culturally of the victim of power and money centered American White values (Hunter, 2008, p. 255). On the contrary to Astral, Ursas humanly performed abortion and received by a Caribbean receptionist at the beginning imbues her with a feeling of power from black community. The March wind has already cut through the fleece lining of her shearling coat and close in a vise around her head, yet she feels well enough, game enough to walk the forty-odd blocks to her apartment on West 101st Street (Marshall, 1992, p. 5). She repeatedly mentions her illusion that the abortion is undone, implying her hesitation to admit to her independence from people around her, among whom her self-isolation raises strong repercussions. She keeps her abortion a secret from and worries her intimate friend Viney. Why have you got this machine on all the time? Why wont you call me back? Somethings happened You know how I worr (Marshall, 1992, p. 7). She feels tight link toward her people and perceives that she is mature enough to be independent. Finished, she inspects herself. Hardly a stain. Her third trip since coming in and still hardly a stain (Marshall, 1992, p. 16). In her stream of consciousness, she seems to hear Celestines voice of blame. You should have had it, and sent it down for me to rise (Marshall, 1992, p. 18). She even keeps her boyfriend Lowell unknown of her fetuss being aborted. Refusing to answer Lowells call, her inner voice responds: Go away. Said almost gently. The voice inside her is almost gentle. Shes long ceased being annoyed by Lowells ritual with the phone. And by all his other irritating little rituals and habits (Marshall, 1992, p. 19). In the end, she gets the feeling of emptiness and loss. Her abortion encodes her loss, rejection and disappointment, both in the intimate relationships and in broader contexts (Hunter, 2008, p. 255). She gets rid of her boyfriend Carruthers annoying diatribe about his work and her universalized disillusionment with her fathers static politics, and she switches work from a higher position to a lower one for her people. Her abortion reveals that she finally gains her consciousness of independence through her revelation of the metaphorical abortive completion. Ursas betrayal act against her father in his election leads to her emotional liberation and incarnates the returning of the spirit of community. Estelle, Primus Machenzies wife, unlike Astrals clinical and crude induction, naturally aborts several of her own fetuses, which is metaphorically depicted as effect of Primuss betrayal of their communal principles both their family and the Black community. Her abortion portends her gradual disenchantment with her husband and the instability of political affairs on the island (Hunter, 2008, p. 255). Estelle and Ursa finally betray the dominant discourse they can claim for themselves. Each demonstrates an Africana value, the interconnectedness of personal and community emancipation in spirit. The metaphoric abortions of the three women best express the tensions arising out of more complicated domination. Despite the differences they all break up with their dominants in one way or the other. Estella, cherishing no hope any longer for her husband in political ideal, sustains her pursuit for the Triunion people by subverting her husband and supporting the young successor. Astral, for the disillusionment with Primus Machenzie and the pursuit of material wealth, retires from the residence Primus Mechenize provides to her former room and makes reconciliation with Ursa. Ursa is determined to cut off the relationship with her boyfriend, discarding her parents marriage model and pursues her own ideal by resuming her thesis on the praising theme of Congo Jane and Will Cudjoe and working for her people. Discourse served to center the stories of black women brings to the fore the relation between discourse and resistance (Davis, 2002, p. 35).
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Discourse in Daughters based on Bakhtins theory

4. The relation between discourse and resistance


Peter Erickson contends that Daughters is not only open-ended but also resists closure. He asserts that this resistance built into the formal structure involves two ways to read the novel and the two readings sit in uneasy relation to each other: their combination is what gives the novel its special authority. The two readings concern female ties and relations between black men and black women. Here the paradox is that Ursas friend Viney, the figure who most seems to prove the validity and self-sufficiency of female bonds, is the one leads the novel in the other direction. On the one hand, Vineys successful career and her capability of coping with life confirm the idea of giving up on black men. Her elaborate project to locate a man results in her supporting Willis Jenkins, the very emblem of an unreliable black male, whom she eventually throws out of her apartment so that she can go it alone (Hunter, 2008, p. 244). However, Viney is compelled to take a new stand for two black men, a begging voice toward the end of the novel. From the illegitimate but endangering arrest of her son, Robeson, Viney comes to accept and yield to the vulnerability of black men in a white dominant society. Ursas self-conscious development of independence comes through:
Viney speaking of Lowell in this strange new way, without her customary disdain and the lip. She had stood over by the door, her attach case at her side, dressed in the killer clothes she wore to workanother Congo Jane who loved pretty thingshad stood there pleading Lowells cause (Marshall, 1992, pp. 381-382).

Employing the conscious conflicts between Ursa and Viney, the author attaches the importance to the firmness of Ursa in pursuing the harmonious relationship between black men and black women in social life.

5. Conclusion
In light of aforementioned analysis of Paule Marshalls narrative features in Daughters on Bakhtins narrative theory, this paper has illustrated the authors artistic techniques from doubled-directed and metaphoric discourse. Ursas self-consciousness develops at crucial moments through the internal dialogue of discourse of each character. She admires her mother Estelles perseverance in pursuit of her political ideal and her tolerance of Celestines share with her the emotions of her husband and daughter but disapproves of her compromise with her husbands love affairs with Astral regardless of their marriage. Ursa perceives her sister/friend Viney is superficially a vanguard, but actually adheres to past practices from her cohabiting with her boyfriend Willis for five years and she alone nurtures her boy child. After a long period of emotional stasis with her boyfriend Lowell, Ursa comes to realize he marries his job with the image of a keloid of a frown on his forehead just as Astral does with a stone face and Celestine with her mourning clothes on all the time. In the form of double directed and metaphoric discourse, what counts is the striving of the authors artistic energies and visualization of the inner character. Each help Ursa see her family and Triunion society from a new perspective. Thus the consciousnesses of the author, the reader and the textual meaning are immune to the influence of social dominant relationship. The two events of abortion and the legend of Jane and Will Cudjoe, both in metaphoric discourse, best illustrate Ursas self-conscious development of independence. The inseparable image of the two slaves revolutionaries to become coleaders, coconspirators, lovers, consorts, and friends, forms the basis of Ursas exploring the harmonious relations between slave men and women, embody effective resistance. Their vision and sacrifice represent the values and resistance of Triunion people and Ursa. The relationship between both sexes in reality differs from what Ursa has expected to be mutually supportive and attached. Be in the States or in Triunion,

Discourse in Daughters based on Bakhtins theory

the black daughters confronted with an alienated society, have not harmonious and integral life. Marshall demonstrates the whole truth of her presented world while the protagonist experiences and senses her unique one in the authors design and it is true with any other character. Accordingly, the author keeps the readers at a distance of artistic authenticity.
References: Bakhtin, Mikhail. 1984. Problems of Dostoevskys poetics. Caryl Emerson. (Ed. and Trans.). Manchester: Manchester University Press. Davis, Olga Idriss. 2002. Theorizing African American womens discourse: The public and private spheres of experience. In: Houston, Marsha & Olga Idriss Davis. (Eds.), Centering ourselves: African American feminist and womanist studies of discourse. Cresskill: Hampton Press, Inc., 35-52. Gardiner, Michael E. (Ed.). 2003. Sage masters of modern social thought: Mikhail Bakhtin (Vol. II). London: Sage Publications Ltd. Hunter, Jeffrey W. 2008. Contemporary literary criticism (Vol. 253). Detroit: Gale/Cengage Learning. Marshall, Paule. 1992. Daughters. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company. Melchior, Bernhard. 1998. Re/Visioning the self away from home: Autobiographical and cross-cultural dimensions in the works of Paule Marshall. Frankfurt: Peter Lang GmbH. Willis, Susan. 1990. Specifying: Black women writing the American experience. London: Routledge.

(Edited by Tina, Max and Sunny)