The importance of setting within Mama Day by Gloria Naylor.

Essay by dana082College, UndergraduateA+, November 2003

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The novel Mama Day by Gloria Naylor explores both the intriguing relationship between a young city boy and a culturally confused girl, George and Ophelia, and the simple yet supernatural life of an old, wise woman on an isolated island entirely detached from the civilized world around her. Ophelia, or Cocoa, becomes a link between the chaotic world and hustle and bustle of the mainland and the life of Willow Springs that connects her into a cultural and much different identity. The setting of a novel and the distinct portrayal of the time, place, and environment of what is occurring are often essential to the understanding of the true essence of a novel. In this case, the element of the setting is most important to the novel as a whole, establishing the grounds for the several diverse perspectives and "realities" for Naylor's significant characters. The importance of setting within Mama Day is shown through the vivid description of the island of Willow Springs, the use of New York City as an opposing world to that of the cultural island, and the distinct environment and boundaries that are created regarding the spiritual "other place."

The island of Willow Springs becomes a place throughout the book that is very real and full of life for its inhabitants, even though it realistically does not even exist. The first person narration by George becomes the basis for the outside depiction of Willow Springs, and his lack of knowledge and connection to the island brings about a vital perspective for the reader. George becomes aware of the unique aspects of the island and reveals some of the most cultural and spiritual parts of its existence. "My suspicions were confirmed when we drove over that shaky wooden bridge: you had not prepared me for paradise...I had...