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By Odile Ferly (auth.)

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By contrast, Emilia rejects the role of the utterly sacrificing mother and wife, to demand instead her right to self-fulfillment: “todos me decían qué abnegada eres [ . . ] que palabra tan fea, abnegada, eso, verdaderamente, yo estaba negada, no ab” (78: everybody told me, how self-sacrificing you are . . what a horrible word that is, self-sacrificing, really, I was sacrificed, not self-sacrificing). Added to an unhappy marriage with Diego, she must bear the constraints of her mentally and physically crippled son Alisio, whose care she assumes virtually on her own for twenty years with much resentment.

He firmly believes that “woman is the work of man” (L’espérance-macadam 146): woman is man’s inferior, and he ought to educate her. In her essay “Écrire en tant que Noire” (293), Pineau reports that many Antillean women resent her negative portrayal of men, whereas male readers seldom complain, as if in tacit acquiescence. She points out that by invariably defending men, exempting them of any culpability, accepting their verbal and physical abuse, and generally treating them as irresponsible, spoiled children, women have their own share of responsibility in the construction of detrimental gender roles.

In stark contrast, at thirty-five Pineau’s protagonist Éliette is content with her state of celibacy and only marries twice in the hope of conceiving a child. Valuing childrearing over childbearing despite the general contempt for barrenness in her society, she considers adoption and eventually takes Angela in. As a child Sophie is keenly aware that a dutiful daughter is expected to replicate her mother’s gestures and appearance, hence the matching clothes. Atie further believes that her filial duty is to care for her mother Ifé.

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