Downfall of Luther Nedeed
English and Literature
Submitted By ravensb
10 February 2012
Gloria Naylor’s Linden Hills: Resistance of Luther Nedeed In Linden Hills, Gloria Naylor illustrates the resistance of Willie K. Mason and Luther Nedeed’s wife, Willa, of the ideology of Linden Hills develops the rhetoric that they serve as the downfall of the generations of Luther Nedeed. Willie was an anchor that brought people of Linden Hills of their high horse and into the reality of the world. Willie resists the white hegemony and status of the residents of Linden Hills. Some critics believe that Willa served as the messiah for Linden Hills. Willa resists the western aesthetics of patriarchy. With the opposition of Linden Hills’ ideology, Luther Nedeed’s founding values crumble in one season. Willie is a fail Luther’s scheme of life. Willie wants to be successful, but not at the price of selling his soul. Willie’s debates about the world black people live in brings insight to the residents that live by the white hegemony present in Linden Hills. Willie attempts to explain the white hegemony that Xavier and Maxwell live by with the statement “Then I guess it’s just a coincidence—that the majority of black folks in this country are poor, have been poor, and will be poor for a long time to come.” Making an issue about the way Luther sets up the goals and status of life threatens his community. With no knowledge of his influences over the residents of Linden Hills, Willie contributes to diminishing legacy of Luther Nedeed. Naylor appoints significance to Willie witnessing Willa’s return, because it means everything Luther Nedeed stood for would die. Willa becomes insane, yet sensible about the life she has been living as Mrs. Nedeed. The imprisonment and death of her son brings about her discovery of the bible of the former wives. After an extensive time of thinking about life or death, she decides that death is the path to pursue. She does not think about saving Linden Hills or the people in it nor does she become suicidal. Critics such as Margaret Homans, Teressa Goddu, and Houston Baker viewed Willa’s death as a biblical matter. Christopher Okonkwo supports the perspective of Willa’s death in his article “Suicide or Messianic Self-Sacrifice?: Exhuming Willa's Body in Gloria Naylor's Linden Hills” with the following statement “Homans argues, for instance, that the novel reneges in its inferred promise to create a (sustainable) heroine through Willa's mirror of identity recovery and self-awareness” (396). Okonkwo gives an example of suicide by disregarding or having no moral or cultural values. Okonkwo compares Laurel Dumont’s death to Willa’s as a suicide. Laurel was illustrated as a successful black woman, but also a saddened woman. She did not heed the cultural impressions that her grandmother advised, and was lost in her world. Laurel was not religious and insightful when it came to her own happiness. Thus, she listened to Luther and ended her life. The idea that she sacrificed her life, to save the fallen souls of Linden Hills would prove her to be a female messiah. Others would argue that because she lost her sanity because of the trauma that she dealt with, she was suicidal. Evidence also presented in Okonkwo’s articles represents the suicidal argument with the following: In "Suicide, Self-Sacrifice and Coercion," William E. Tolhurst concedes to the dilemma of categorization. He notes that this difficulty arises not from absence of empirical evidence but from "the lack of a clear account of what makes a particular self-caused death a case of suicide" (105). While the descriptions of "suicide" and "self-sacrifice" may sometimes seem blurry, scholars recognize differences between the two. For Tolhurst, "a person has committed suicide if and only if that person has brought about his death intentionally"; this intent has to be strong and also have "the right sort of causal history, roughly one which is caused by the agent's beliefs and desires in the right way" (111). In all perspectives she resisted the patriarchic ways of Luther. Willa was not going to have her individuality and opinions dismayed any longer. Naylor does not reveal the thoughts of Willa before, during, or after her narration of Willa in the following statement, “Her fist lashed out and caught him across the Adam’s apple, making him bend and choke.” The rhetoric is why Willa would put her life in danger, but in both assumptions of self-sacrifice and suicide, she manages to resist patriarchic ideologies that end the generations of Luther Nedeed. Gloria Naylor’s narrative tone Linden Hills foreshadows that Luther Nedeed would have a downfall. The rhetoric of which characters that would be against Luther is the question. Willie’s resistance, without him being aware of the influence of his actions opposes the states of residents and white hegemony of the ideologies Luther had for Linden Hills. With corruption occurring in Luther’s perfect world, Willa would oppose her husband patriarchic lifestyle. The rhetoric of purpose being that her death was suicidal or biblical, the generational binding of Luther Nedeed would cease to exist.
Grant, Jacquelyn. “White Women's Christ and Black Women's Jesus: Feminist Christology and
Womanist Response.” Atlanta: Scholars P, 1989.
Homans, Margaret. “The Woman in the Cave: Recent Feminist Fiction and the Classical
Underworld.Contemporary Literature.” 293 (1988): 369-402.
Naylor, Gloria. Linden Hills. New York: Penguin Group, 1985. Print.
Okonkwo, Christopher N. “Suicide or Messianic Self-Sacrifice?: Exhuming Willa's Body in
Gloria Naylor's Linden Hills” African American Review, Vol. 35, No. 1 (Spring, 2001), pp. 117-131
TolhurstW, illiamE . "Suicide,S elf-Sacrifice,a nd Coercion."S uicide:R ighto r Wrong?E d. John
Donnelley. 2nd ed. New York: Prometheus, 1998. 105-17.