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The soul of blues and the sw ing of jazz telling stories in the african american grain: narrative strategy in gloria naylor’s bailey’s café

Author: 
Dr. Madhumita Purkayastha
Subject Area: 
Life Sciences
Abstract: 

Since the 1970’s, the emergence of a separate and distinct black feminist literary tradition has been instrumental in exploding western literary and critical concepts and practices and has heralded the beginning of a new era in the adoption of unconventional narrative techniques by African-American novelists like Toni Morrison, Alice Walker and Gloria Naylor to name only a few. Significantly, these authors have been able to articulate through their innovative narratives the experience of the marginal groups of America, especially that of African-American* women, so long unheard and suppressed in the body of American Literature. Also, deriving from the oral heritage of folk tales, myths and lore, of slave narratives, spiritual songs and gospels, blues and jazz music (always a dominantly Negro* domain) and of a varied and complex black* experience in America, their narratives have captured the verve and vigor of the colloquial speech of real men and women while being evocative and lyrical in their ability to condense and represent the essence of African-American (marginal) experience in America. If “great narratives” or “grand narratives” like history, epic, romance, legend, allegory and even the novel in its traditional sense may be viewed in terms of dominant voices recording the stories of the powerful colonizing forces, the narratives negotiating spaces in history and articulating untold sagas of the oppressed are “little narratives” that tell the stories of the marginalized groups that have hitherto hovered at the periphery of social and political visibility and cognizance. Gloria Naylor, who won the American Book Award in 1983 for her first novel The Women of Brewster Place has represented in all her novels the diversity, richness, whimsicalities, and idiosyncrasies of the African-American experience. Here, an attempt has been made to analyze Gloria Naylor’s Bailey’s Café as a narrative that has represented the disordered urban experience of the Negroes in America, their disillusionment, frustration and pain and their struggle for survival and story of endurance. The paper has also tried to explore how structurally, stylistically and thematically, the narrative of the novel resembles blues and jazz music — music that has traditionally symbolized the essence of black culture and crystallized their emotions and trials and has been regarded as a metaphor for the African-American experience in America (Norton Anthology: 22).

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