Dessa Rose Themes & Motifs

Williams, Sherley A.
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Ownership of Identity

Throughout the novel, the author explores what it means for the individual to own her body, spirit, and mind. Because Dessa Rose is set in the American South in 1847, slavery dictates many of these implications. While the novel is titled after Dessa's name, two-thirds of the narrative are told from the points of view of Nehemiah and Rufel, both white people. Their voices compete with Dessa's, threatening the reader's understanding of her character. This tension between narrator and reader mimics Dessa's psychic conflict between the other characters' impressions of her, and her impressions of herself.

Told from Nehemiah's point of view, the first section of the novel, The Darky, presents Dessa as an object. Nehemiah frequently likens her appearance and mannerisms to that of an animal. Nehemiah's narrative control allows him to portray Dessa as an object, a creature of bondage. Her voice in...

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This section contains 1,841 words
(approx. 5 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the Dessa Rose Study Guide
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