Q. Analysis of the lines from Strong Horse Tea by Alice Walker.
He wished she would stand back from his car so he could get going. But she clung to the side gabbing away about “Snooks” and “NEW-monia” and “shots” and how she wanted a “REAL doctor.
This passage from Alice Walker’s Strong Horse Tea reflects a few key themes:
Detachment and Indifference
The mailman’s desire to leave rather than engage with Rannie’s troubles indicates detachment or indifference to her plight.
It could be representative of a broader societal tendency to overlook or distance oneself from the struggles of those in poverty or from marginalized communities.
Contrast Between Desperation and Apathy
Rannie’s desperation, as she clings to the mailman’s car and talks about her child’s illness, starkly contrasts with the mailman’s apathy.
This juxtaposition highlights the often stark divide in experiences and attitudes between those in need and those in a position to offer help or support.
The Struggle for Access to Healthcare
Rannie’s mention of wanting a “REAL doctor” underscores the theme of inadequate access to healthcare, a common issue in impoverished communities.
Her reliance on folk remedies speaks to the desperation of those without access to proper medical care.
The mailman’s eagerness to leave can also be seen as a metaphor for the broader socioeconomic divides and the lack of understanding or willingness to engage with the hardships those in less privileged circumstances face.
Black people as black as Rannie Mae always made him uneasy, especially when they did not smell good and when you could tell they did not right away.
The mailman’s discomfort with people as dark-skinned as Rannie Mae directly points to racial biases. His unease is not based solely on personal interaction or individual character traits but on skin color.
It reflects a deep-rooted racism that judges and discriminates against people based on their appearance, particularly skin tone.
Such biases were (and in many cases, still are) a pervasive issue in society, often leading to unjust treatment and marginalization of darker-skinned individuals.
Class and Social Prejudices
The mailman’s reference to smell as an indicator of someone’s social class or living conditions further exposes his classist attitudes.
His assumption that a lack of pleasant smell correlates with lower social status or poverty highlights a common stereotype of poverty and poor hygiene.
This stereotype fails to consider the broader socio-economic factors that might limit a person’s access to resources for maintaining the same standards of cleanliness that are more easily attainable in higher economic classes.
The fact that the mailman makes these judgments “right away” indicates a snap judgment based on deep-seated stereotypes and prejudices.
Without understanding the individual’s circumstances, this immediate judgment is often categorized and treated based on superficial and prejudiced perceptions.
Historical and Social Context
Walker’s portrayal of the mailman’s thoughts must be viewed within the historical and social context of the story. During the periods in which many of Walker’s stories were set, racial segregation and discrimination were rampant, and such attitudes were not uncommon.
Walker often highlights these issues in her work to shed light on the injustices and challenges African American communities face.
Impact on Interpersonal Relations
The mailman’s discomfort and prejudices affect his interactions with Rannie. Instead of empathy or assistance, his biases lead to detachment and a desire to escape the situation.
This behavior reflects how prejudices can impede meaningful human connections and support within a community.
Why did colored folks always want you to do something for them?
Coming from Rannie, an African American character, this statement could reflect internalized racism.
It is not uncommon for members of marginalized groups to absorb and echo the prejudiced views dominant in society. It can manifest as self-critical thoughts or criticisms of their community.
Frustration and Desperation
Spoken by Rannie, who is desperate to save her sick child, the line might express her frustration. She could be reflecting on her own experiences or the expectations placed on her by others, including those within her community.
Reflection on Community Dynamics
The line could also indicate Rannie’s observations about the dynamics within her community. It might reflect her feelings of being overwhelmed by the needs and demands of those around her, especially given her dire circumstances.
Commentary on Social Support Systems
Rannie’s remark might also highlight the reliance on community and mutual support in African American communities, especially in times of need.
This reliance can be a source of strength, but it might feel like an additional burden in moments of individual struggle.
And he hurriedly rolled up the window and sped down the road, cringing from the thought that she had put her hands on him.
The mailman’s act of quickly rolling up the window and driving away after Rannie touches him reveals his deep-seated racial prejudices.
His discomfort and haste to leave suggest an ingrained bias against physical contact with African Americans, which is a reflection of the racial attitudes prevalent in society at the time.
Physical and Social Distancing
This reaction is not just about physical distancing; it also symbolizes the social and emotional distance that often existed between white people and African Americans.
The mailman’s cringing and hurried departure demonstrates a desire to maintain this distance and avoid meaningful interaction.
Fear and Misunderstanding: The mailman’s cringing indicates fear or discomfort, possibly stemming from misunderstandings or stereotypes about African Americans. His reaction is a manifestation of the unfounded fears and misconceptions held by many white people about physical contact with black people.
Lack of Empathy and Connection
The mailman’s behavior also highlights a lack of empathy and human connection. Rannie is desperate, and her situation is serious. However, the mailman is more focused on his own discomfort than on understanding or helping her.