Chapter

Enslaved Women’s Resistance and Survival Strategies in Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s “The Slave Mother: A Tale of the Ohio” and Toni Morrison’S <i>Beloved and Margaret Garner</i>

Kristine Yohe

in Gendered Resistance

Published by University of Illinois Press

Published in print October 2013 | ISBN: 9780252037900
Published online April 2017 | e-ISBN: 9780252095160 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5406/illinois/9780252037900.003.0005
Enslaved Women’s Resistance and Survival Strategies in Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s “The Slave Mother: A Tale of the Ohio” and Toni Morrison’S Beloved and Margaret Garner

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This chapter examines Frances Ellen Watkins Harper's 1857 poem “The Slave Mother: A Tale of the Ohio,” Toni Morrison's 1987 novel Beloved, and Morrison's 2004 libretto Margaret Garner. Through examining the various interpretations of Margaret Garner's history in the poem, novel, and opera, it becomes clear that her rebellious act resulted in metaphorical cultural survival even though her daughter did not literally survive. In other words, through the sacrifice of her child, Garner transcended her bondage, exerting her claim for maternal power over the tomb of institutional subjugation. Moreover, through asserting her right to decide what happened to her children, Garner defied slavery by surrendering the physical flesh in order to allow the metaphysical spirit to survive. Through these different genres, Harper and Morrison reconfigure the circumstances of Garner's decision, with powerful effect.

Keywords: Frances Ellen Watkins Harper; Toni Morrison; Margaret Garner; cultural survival; maternal power; institutional subjugation; slavery

Chapter.  6647 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Gender and Sexuality

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