A Poetics of Relation: Caribbean Women Writing at the by Odile Ferly (auth.)

By Odile Ferly (auth.)

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The traditional Haitian (and Relating the Female Experience O 31 by extension Caribbean) woman is confined to her household and left totally in charge of it, while the man has few responsibilities. Ironically, neither Atie nor her sister Martine ever marries, which stresses the absurdity of this rigorous training, designed to benefit men who ultimately fail to materialize. Since their father dies young, such oppressive socialization persists in a household composed exclusively of women; this makes all the more disturbing the strict control of female sexuality, which is discussed further on.

Thus Sophie hates her body: “I am ashamed to show it to anybody, including my husband” (Breath, Eyes, Memory 123). The tale of the young bride failing to bleed on her wedding night despite her virginity and whose groom bleeds to death in order to produce the evidence saving his honor emphasizes that the repression of female sexuality can be fatal. Although decreasingly so, female emancipation is still connected to class in the Caribbean. Women at the top and bottom of the social ladder often enjoy less freedom than their middle-class counterparts.

19 Afro-Hispanophone women, including the last two aforementioned and the lesser-known Aurora Arias, have also begun to publish in greater numbers. These factors explain why Francophone female protagonists remain largely represented as victims, whereas their Hispanophone counterparts, especially from Puerto Rico and to a lesser degree Cuba, are increasingly portrayed as liberated, although their freedom can actually turn out to be limited. 20 Nevertheless, even when the protagonists’ situation seems grimmest, a progression along generations and the provision of alternative female models add notes of optimism.

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