“True Darkness and True Womanness” : A Study of Sisterhood in Marlon James’ The Book of Night Women
Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair
This paper focuses on the obstacles to building sisterhood and community in Marlon James’ novel The Book of Night Women (2009). I examine the acts of violence that the enslaved women at Montpelier Estate perform against one another and consider the influence the plantation environment has on these relationships. The violence that takes place among the enslaved women is especially prevalent within the group of “night women,” which consists of Lilith, Homer, Pallas, Iphigenia, Hippolyta, Callisto, and Gorgon. Despite the biological and symbolic sisterhood between these women, they more frequently express feelings of enmity than ones of community. By highlighting the countless antagonisms that transpire between the enslaved women, James challenges traditional sentimental approaches to the subjects of slavery and sisterhood. In this paper, I use a feminist lens to explore the violent interactions between the women at Montpelier and argue that the plantation environment fosters an atmosphere of conflict, competition, and suspicion which undermines potential feelings of unity. Although the slave women at Montpelier unite to subvert the authority of their white oppressors, they fail to form an effective community of resistance because they prioritize individual rather than collective goals. By way of interpretive analysis, I examine the way that The Book of Night Women depicts the plantation and sisterhood – or the lack thereof – among the enslaved women at Montpelier Estate.
Schwartz, Jessica, "“True Darkness and True Womanness” : A Study of Sisterhood in Marlon James’ The Book of Night Women" (2021). Theses, Dissertations and Culminating Projects. 748.