Walker’s comparison of women to saints means that females have lost their natural form and meaning: they have acquired “shrines” instead of bodies and “temples” instead of minds (401). This description is bad since the writer presupposes that women cannot lead the lives they want, having to bear the status of “lunatics” or “suicides” instead (Walker 401). Further, Walker challenges the notion of women being saints and depicts them as creative artists (402). This shift is essential since being an artist, according to the author, is much more difficult than being a saint. The latter are used to being empty, whereas the former realize that they have talents that cannot be fully expressed or shared (Walker 402). The ban on reading and writing would limit the potential of creative artists since they would not have sufficient means of expressing their talents.
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Walker criticizes Woolf’s essay and shows that women who do not own themselves the creative spirit (404-405). Walker argues that the most crucial thing is not what one sings but the fact of keeping alive “the notion of the song” (405). According to Walker, Phillis Wheatley died suffering from “neglect and who knows what mental agonies” (404). Wheatley is considered a pioneering African American poet whose life was “an anomaly” since she received lessons at a time when slaves were not allowed to learn to read and write (“Phillis Wheatley Biography”).
By calling black women “the mule of the world,” Walker implies that they are carrying the burden that “everyone else refused to carry” (405). At the same time, these females with difficult fates manage to find time for creativity. Even when making clothes and other essentials for their families, women add pieces of their souls and minds to each object. According to Walker, quilts represent the creative spirit because, even though made from “bits and pieces of worthless rags,” they enable black women to choose the shapes and combine colors the way they wish (407). The author’s mother had a “muzzled and often mutilated, but vibrant, creative spirit” (Walker 406). This spirit was expressed by making quilts, and Walker describes her mother, along with other women who made quilts, as individuals owning “powerful imagination and deep spiritual feeling” (407).
“Phillis Wheatley Biography.” Biography.com, 2020.
Walker, Alice. “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens.” Within the Circle: An Anthology of African American Literary Criticism from the Harlem Renaissance to the Present, edited by Angelyn Mitchell, Duke University Press, 1994, pp. 401-409.