Buku Burnin’ Down the House by Valerie Sweeney Prince

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Burnin’ Down the House by Valerie Sweeney Prince

Author:Valerie Sweeney Prince

Language: eng

Format: epub

Tags: LIT004040, Literary Criticism/American/African American, LIT004020, Literary Criticism/American/General

Publisher: Columbia University Press

Published: 2004-12-28T16:00:00+00:00

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Burnin’ Down the House by Valerie Sweeney Prince

Kitchen: Polly’s Black and Blue Kitchen

Mrs. Breedlove escapes the fate of homelessness after Cholly puts their family outdoors because she can stay at the Fishers’ home. Polly’s kitchen is a “black” place in the ways that Dilsey’s kitchen is in The Sound and the Fury—a place where Pauline Breedlove serves her surrogate white daughter and her white family. Mrs. Breedlove is resentful of intrusions into this realm, which might remind her of the ugliness of her life at the storefront. While she is leery of defending that place, she is fierce in defense of Fisher family affairs. In this other place, her employers’ kitchen, Mrs. Breedlove seems to escape the repercussions associated with her own family. Here she can lord over canned goods, shiny floors, and other things that seem to give her life value: “Power, praise, and luxury were hers in this household. They even gave her what she had never had—a nickname—Polly” (101).

Even the little pink-and-yellow girl at the Fishers’ home calls Mrs. Breedlove “Polly.” Hearing the name from the lips of a child younger than she incites Claudia to anger: “Her calling Mrs. Breedlove Polly, when even Pecola called her mother Mrs. Breedlove, seemed reason enough to scratch her” (86). The designation, which seems arrogant and disrespectful to Claudia, contributes to Mrs. Breedlove’s possessiveness over the space of this home. She is able to function within a relatively viable construction of “ideal servant,” which, although constrictive, is nonetheless a seductive contrast to the ugliness of her life at home. Rather than deconstructing such designations, as Claudia does in her dismemberment of the doll or as Bigger Thomas does by decapitating the murdered corpse of Mary Dalton in Native Son, Mrs. Breedlove accepts her role within the Shirley Temple world signified by the cup. So while Pecola hungrily laps at the white milk to no avail, as mammy, her mother is received into this alternative household. Claudia describes the effect the kitchen has on Mrs. Breedlove: “Mrs. Breedlove’s skin glowed like taffeta in the reflection of white porcelain, white woodwork, polished cabinets, and brilliant copperware” (86)—and it is Polly, of course, who keeps the kitchen glowing. Her presence in the pink-and-yellow girl’s kitchen is as vital to maintaining the whiteness of the cabinetry, the counters, and the family who lives there as the black drops are in the optic white paint of Invisible Man’s Liberty Paint Factory.

 

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Burnin’ Down the House by Valerie Sweeney Prince

Author:Valerie Sweeney Prince , Date: June 16, 2019

,Views: 34

Author:Valerie Sweeney Prince

Language: eng

Format: epub

Tags: LIT004040, Literary Criticism/American/African American, LIT004020, Literary Criticism/American/General

Publisher: Columbia University Press

Published: 2004-12-28T16:00:00+00:00
Kitchen: Polly’s Black and Blue Kitchen

Mrs. Breedlove escapes the fate of homelessness after Cholly puts their family outdoors because she can stay at the Fishers’ home. Polly’s kitchen is a “black” place in the ways that Dilsey’s kitchen is in The Sound and the Fury—a place where Pauline Breedlove serves her surrogate white daughter and her white family. Mrs. Breedlove is resentful of intrusions into this realm, which might remind her of the ugliness of her life at the storefront. While she is leery of defending that place, she is fierce in defense of Fisher family affairs. In this other place, her employers’ kitchen, Mrs. Breedlove seems to escape the repercussions associated with her own family. Here she can lord over canned goods, shiny floors, and other things that seem to give her life value: “Power, praise, and luxury were hers in this household. They even gave her what she had never had—a nickname—Polly” (101).

Even the little pink-and-yellow girl at the Fishers’ home calls Mrs. Breedlove “Polly.” Hearing the name from the lips of a child younger than she incites Claudia to anger: “Her calling Mrs. Breedlove Polly, when even Pecola called her mother Mrs. Breedlove, seemed reason enough to scratch her” (86). The designation, which seems arrogant and disrespectful to Claudia, contributes to Mrs. Breedlove’s possessiveness over the space of this home. She is able to function within a relatively viable construction of “ideal servant,” which, although constrictive, is nonetheless a seductive contrast to the ugliness of her life at home. Rather than deconstructing such designations, as Claudia does in her dismemberment of the doll or as Bigger Thomas does by decapitating the murdered corpse of Mary Dalton in Native Son, Mrs. Breedlove accepts her role within the Shirley Temple world signified by the cup. So while Pecola hungrily laps at the white milk to no avail, as mammy, her mother is received into this alternative household. Claudia describes the effect the kitchen has on Mrs. Breedlove: “Mrs. Breedlove’s skin glowed like taffeta in the reflection of white porcelain, white woodwork, polished cabinets, and brilliant copperware” (86)—and it is Polly, of course, who keeps the kitchen glowing. Her presence in the pink-and-yellow girl’s kitchen is as vital to maintaining the whiteness of the cabinetry, the counters, and the family who lives there as the black drops are in the optic white paint of Invisible Man’s Liberty Paint Factory.

Conversely, Pecola is the one black drop too many. Pecola’s presence in the Fisher household disrupts the precarious balance and threatens to destroy the whole system. She is only there to handle a chore for her mother, and she is not even invited in until Claudia and Frieda arrive. With a stern admonition to stay still, Mrs. Breedlove leaves the three girls in the kitchen. When she returns with a bag of wet laundry and to answer the small child’s call, Mrs. Breedlove discovers that Pecola has accidentally knocked over a freshly baked pie and is hopping around the floor in its

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