Perceptions of Place: Geopolitical and Cultural Positioning in Paule Marshall’s Novels

  • Heidi Slettedahl Macpherson


The acknowledged tension between community and individual in the fiction of Paule Marshall extends beyond the perimeters of any imagined country. Indeed, Marshall’s use of fictionalized, composite island backdrops moves her representation of Caribbean identity beyond specific geography while still acknowledging the geopolitical space accorded representations of the Caribbean. In her 1991 novel, Daughters, Marshall symbolically names her composite island Triunion, and in this name links not only the three colonial powers said to have engaged in historical struggle over the island — France, England, and Spain — but also the African-American and Caribbean identities of her main protagonist, Ursa Beatrice Mackenzie. Thus, Marshall symbolically deconstructs any sort of binary opposition implied by the juxtapositioning of American and Caribbean, while simultaneously exploring how the tension between individual and community is mediated through these representations. Focusing primarily on Daughters, this chapter will trace Marshall’s manipulation of the individual-community struggle which is apparent from her first novel, Brown Girl, Brownstones (1959), through her most recent, and explore how this struggle is represented through contestations of place.


Black Woman Garden City Caribbean Island Colonial Power African Culture 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1999

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  • Heidi Slettedahl Macpherson

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