Violence In Hélène Cixous's The Laugh Of Medusa

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Through the deviation from the assumed expectations of mothering, Sethe pursues an identity that will enable her to reaffirm her ownership over her children. The voiceless position of the black woman, traditionally unrepresented because of her gender, class and ethnicity, finds a way to speak through murder. Her subjectivity cannot be represented through words, as Hélène Cixous suggests in The Laugh of Medusa, because language is the owner’s instrument. Therefore, she can only enter the world of discourse by performing a violent act, which undermines the basis of a slave system whose weakest part is Sethe herself. In a desperate attempt to hurt those who hurt her more, the woman affirms her desire to put her children ‘where they could be safe’…show more content…
Being born from a loving union, Sethe is the only child Ma’am decided to name and allowed to live. The woman let her other children die, because they were the consequences of rapes she could not escape. Her refusal to care for children she had from men she did not choose constitutes a strong reaction and opposition to black women’s reduction to objects of sexual abuse. Ma’am shows Sethe that mothering has to be a free choice, and violence is an acceptable response to impositions on one’s will. The connection between mothering and violence is reinforced by Ma’am 's physical attack against Sethe. When Sethe expresses her desire to have a mark similar to Ma’am’s one on her skin, the woman violently hits her, punishing the girl for wanting the oppressor’s identification sign upon herself. In this case, Ma’am fails to understand that her daughter is unaware of the true meaning of that mark and just wants to share something with her. Despite playing a marginal role in the novel and in Sethe’s life, Ma’am has deeply influenced Sethe’s conception of motherhood as site of power, rebellion and choice. They may have had different reasons, but both Sethe and her mother end up as baby-killers in the end, in a cyclical, brutal repetition of mothering
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