Introduction & Overview of The River Mumma Wants Out

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The River Mumma Wants Out Summary & Study Guide Description

The River Mumma Wants Out 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 Bibliography on The River Mumma Wants Out by Lorna Goodison.

Lorna Goodison's “The River Mumma Wants Out,” published in 2005, is, on the surface, a lighthearted poem, making fun of people who look for happiness in things that glitter. Below the surface, however, the work is a scathing criticism of a popular culture that fosters insatiable desires, change for change's sake, and a lack of responsibility or spirituality. Goodison has set her poem in her homeland, Jamaica, but the message therein applies to all people everywhere.

Goodison published “River Mumma” at a time when she was equally established in the United States, where she was living with her husband and teaching at the University of Michigan, and in Jamaica, where she would return each summer. Having relationships with both her homeland and a new country provided her with the perspective needed to objectively evaluate each of the two cultures—and indeed, the assessment is fairly depressing. No one, the poem implies, wants to take care of the things that should matter most, such as the environment. Even the most sacred cultural icons have grown tired of living obscure lives with no monetary reward. These guardians, the reader understands, would rather “go clubbing” with glitzy, high-profile celebrities who make large amounts of money.

Although the poem does not present an attractive picture of what this drive for needless change and the associated endless self-absorption result in, such as a polluted Kingston Harbour, the poem could be read as a prayer, a wish, or a hope. In the poem, a speaker asks, “You can't take a hint? You can't read a sign?” These questions seem to communicate the underlying message. “Wake up and take note,” the speaker appears to be shouting. The contention that a mythological creature “wants out” cannot be understood as a good omen.

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