February 19, 2015
Skepticism in Mama Day
In Mama Day by Gloria Naylor, George has trouble believing in Willow Springs’ magical powers and all that happens on the island. George is very doubtful of believing in superstitions. He thinks that you need to first understand the belief of having a future, in order to have forces that are able to transform it. You begin to understand how George feels about superstitions when he finally goes with Cocoa on her yearly trip to Willow Springs, which is filled with different mythical souls. George gets to experience first hand what the mysterious island is really like and all that it encompasses. In Mama Day, George is unable to see the supernatural occurrences that happen on the island of Willow Springs, resulting in severe frustration and arrogance that lasts throughout the novel.
One instance where George shows his ignorance towards superstition is when he exclaims, “I may have knocked my head against the walls, figuring out how to buy food, supplies, and books, but I never knocked on wood. No rabbit's foot, no crucifixes—not even a lottery ticket” (Naylor 27). This is a very good example of how George feels towards things that are either based on luck, or just superstition. He is basically saying that he doesn’t need any kind of luck to get through life. He can focus on what he wants to do in life and get through it on his own while working very hard to do so. In a way it is understandable for him to not understand what is going on. George is an engineer who is used to working with numbers and getting outcomes that can be explained and understood. He can’t explain what’s going on on the island with science or math so it is difficult for him to get the full meaning of the mysterious things that are happening on the island. George is just not used to the things that he has experienced from the trip to Willow Springs, from New York. The combination of the trip along with the magical island, if you will, is too much for him to handle, so he got stressed out and couldn’t figure out what was going on.
A second example of how George can’t handle the idea of superstitious activity and also a change in location is that he did not know what to expect and he could not plan ahead what he was going to wear on the island, because of the fact that there was not an actual location. “It’s hard to know what to expect from a place when you can’t find it on the map. Preparing for Willow Springs upset my normal agenda: a few minutes with an atlas always helped me to decide what clothes to pack, whether a raincoat would be in order or not, a light pullover for the evenings” (Naylor 174). In this quote, George is confused as to why there is not an actual location name for the island of Willow Springs. He does not understand how it is not a part of Georgia or South Carolina, and how it can be a location all by itself. Cocoa tries to explain to him that it does not belong to either place, but he does not understand. George is used to being able to calculate what he was doing based just off of the facts and information that are given to him. But, in this situation George does not have any facts to be able to break down what he is about to do so he is panicked and very anxious about what lies ahead. After he arrives at Willow Springs, he begins to loosen up on the fact that just because the island is mysterious, does not mean that it will be unbearable to stay there, and that it is actually somewhat of a paradise.
Another example of how George is unable to handle all that the island holds is when Miranda and Abigail are talking about how George would not be able to survive. They say worrisomely, “George ain’t never gonna believe this, Miranda. Go to him with some mess like this, and he’d be sure we were senile. 'That’s right. So we gotta wait for him to feel the need to come to us. I’ll have to stay out at the other place. And when he’s ready, head him in my direction. 'That