The Impact Of Immigration On Mother-Daughter Relationships And Identity Development In Six Novels Of The Caribbean Diaspora

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English and Languages


Doctor of Philosophy

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The problem of this study was to analyze the mother-daughter relationships portrayed in six postcolonial female authored Caribbean novels, with an emphasis on how immigration affects the mother-daughter relationships and the psychological maturation and identity development of the adolescent daughters. Throughout the discourse, the writer examined the social, political, and economic forces that lead to immigration, as well as interrogated the mothers' choice of the United States of America as the host country in the novels being examined. In addition, the writer discussed the notion of mothers as evil step-parents who perpetuate colonial patriarchal values and try to impose these values on their daughters who, in turn, rebel against them. The researcher utilized a number of theories—economic, psychosocial, cultural, feminist, and postcolonial—to assess the identity development of the young adult female protagonists. To analyze the above problem, the texts employed in this study are Esmeralda Santiago's When I Was Puerto Rican (1994), Julia Alvarez's How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (1992), Edwidge Danticat's Breath, Eyes, Memory (1998), Maryse Condé's Desirada (2003), Jamaica Kincaid's Lucy (1990), and Pamela K. Marshall's Barrel Child (2011). The six novels illustrate common factors that lead to the separation of Caribbean families. Although the selected novels are set in postcolonial Caribbean territories, remnants of colonization remain and are adhered to through the political system and sustained powerlessness of women. The selected novels also demonstrate that there are parallels between the experiences of Caribbean mothers and their young adult daughters, regardless of the linguistic and cultural dissimilarities of the countries they come from. Notably, all of the novels depict the importance of community and other mothers to the acculturation of mothers and daughters in American society. Those novels whose mothers and daughters were involved with a community of women and other mothers illustrated smoother transitions into the American mainstream and exemplified daughters who achieved a strong sense of Self. In contrast, those novels in which there was a lack of community for the women and a lack of other mothering portrayed the mothers and daughters as facing greater challenges in assimilating and developing a strong self-esteem, thus reinforcing the value of one's diaspora in America. These novels add to the literary tradition of Caribbean immigrant literature.