Praisesong for the Widow Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 36 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Praisesong for the Widow.
This section contains 470 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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Praisesong for the Widow Summary & Study Guide Description

Praisesong for the Widow Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Praisesong for the Widow by Paule Marshall.

"Praisesong for the Widow" tells the story of Avey (short for Avatara) Johnson from childhood through early widowhood in the form of flashbacks while she is on a Caribbean cruise with friends. The friends know Avey only as the conservative wife of a successful business man. That knowledge and their commitment to their itinerary make it all the more startling when Avey, beset by stomach pain she cannot explain, elects to cut her cruise short and return home. She would land at one of the nearby islands and fly out from there.

As she comes to this decision, flashes from her past tell the story of her childhood of summers on Tatem Island with her Creole great aunt who told her the story of the Ibos — the people they took off the slave boat in chains — and their proud and elegant countenances as they simply walked away from the traders on the water as if it was solid ground. She remembers the jubilant Ring Shouts she and her great aunt would watch from across the street, and the dance the people did as they shouted their praises. These memories melt into memories of a similarly jubilant early married life with Jay (short for Jerome Johnson) spent dancing to the jazz greats in their living room, imagining they were in their favorite dance halls, and spending sweet and merry time with their children.

The trouble comes when Avey comes to the season in her memories when she was finally driven out of her senses with suspicion of Jay's unfaithfulness. It was a fateful evening when her madness broke his heart, and drove the merry Jay from him, replaced by a man driven to make enough money to take them from their poverty and the darkness that came with it. That is when Avey began her own transformation from the dancing, merry girl she was to the reserved, tightly controlled adult she didn't recognize when she looked in the mirror.

Avey's redemption comes when she lands on the island filled with happy people waiting to go on an excursion. In her hotel that night, she finally melts into the pain of both the death of Jerome Johnson, her business man husband, and the Jay of their youth, condemned to a life of conformity and joyless control. The next morning, walking on the beach, she comes across an intriguing old man also going on the excursion who invites her to come along. She goes, and is so nurtured and welcomed, so nursed out of her pent up pain, that she rediscovers her ability to dance, and in so doing, reconnects with her own lost heritage, dedicating herself to passing it along to her own descendants, just as her great aunt had passed the stories on to her.

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This section contains 470 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the Praisesong for the Widow Study Guide
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