Post Modern Fiction
February 23, 2000
People are born with passion. The irony is that most people spend all their lives searching for that passion without looking inside that soul to the heart of the passion. The trick to discovering that passion is to find what makes us happy. For Indigo the main character of Sassafras, Cypress and Indigo by her passion lies in the music she creates from her soul while using her violin as her tool. From a modern literary criticism standpoint this passion is seen through her characterization and the symbolic use of the violin. However in peeling back the layers and focusing on this story from a Post ? Modern standpoint the reader uncovers deeper issues. There is a sense of discontinuity in the linear structure that leads to a discovery about the cultural issues in this story. Indigo challenges the boundaries of her age and a society that struggles to find a place for her and her soul. That is going under the assumption that there is a place.
?Indigo did not tell her mother about Mr. Lucas being so evil, nor did she mention that her new fiddle could talk.?(Norton 43) With in the first few lines of the story Indigo?s violin begins its transformation from merely and instrument to an extension of her soul. Symbolically Indigo?s violin is representative of her soul. With her violin Indigo pursues the passions of her soul as she struggles to find her place somewhere between childhood and womanhood. Indigo?s mother begs her not to play the violin anymore at night because the neighbors complained about the awful noise. She forces Indigo to take lessons or go somewhere else to play. By rejection her violin her mother rejects the heart and soul of Indigo. Only when she flees to Sister Marie Louise?s shed is she able to play her music and bare her soul to the world. The violin takes on the presence of sin in her life as her mother forbids her to play. It is the forbidden fruit that Indigo longs to taste.
Indigo?s character constantly revolves through the turmoil of a young adolescent on the brink of woman hood. ?Then she would blush, hurriedly out the fiddle back into the case, the Colored and Romance having got the best of her.?(Norton 45) Indigo is not ready to take that final step into womanhood but she is brave enough to sample. Placing a label on the character of Indigo?s out her into the category of a round character. Everything that she experiences affects her both on the inside and the outside. IN fact much of Indigo?s growth as a character is internalized and seen through the way she plays the violin. Faced with the decision to learn how to play the violin by record or quit playing for the people Indigo sets aside her passions and learns ordinary music. Ironically, when this happens people stop coming by to listen and the story begins to fall apart.
Thematically this story center around a girl who needs to find her passion and the steps that she must take to find them. Indigo needs to find her identity and the easiest way to do so is to explore her thoughts and feelings through her violin music. Through the development of her character Indigo is forced to make decisions that affect the outcome of her music and ultimately her life. The story ends in a very somber tome with a funeral sequence. Indigo realized that the time had come to say good0-bye to her childhood and the dolls she played with. She dressed in white and her mother in black as one by one she carried her companions to the attic for a proper burial. Her dolls were her last connection with childhood and after her experiences in the underground she felt it was time to lay them to rest. Indigo?s act of burying these dolls before they reached womanhood with her shows her attempt at sheltering them form growing up. ?Mama I couldn?t bear for them to grow up,? Indigo said in the final scene of the story. Indigo knew that she faced challenges that would her to heartache in the adult world and by burying her dolls maybe that was one small way of sheltering a small part of herself. She already experienced a little bit of the heartache to come when she fled the underground because of her music.
Imagine for me a concert hall filled with people all with hopes of attending a beautiful violin concert. The violinist walks out onto the stage and begins to play a dire melody that hurts our ears. Of course your ears are not accustomed to this ?music?. All your life you grew up listening to Chopin and Mozart so this grating melody goes against everything your ears have ever known. In fact it is so bad that people begin to get up and leave and you with you classical trained ear really begin to listen. The more you listen the awful minor melody begins to sound more appealing and harmonious to your ear. The music affected you. For Indigo this was life. Few people appreciated her music or who she was. Indigo in every way challenged what the people around her believed was music. Her mother forced her out of the house because she could not take the awful sound of her violin playing. Form a post-modern standpoint this story flows with the issues of social restraints, and cultural expectations.
Indigo from a musical standpoint challenges what people consider music. For her it was an extension of what she experienced inside her soul. It was the depth of who she was. Sometimes that was not pretty or what people wanted to listen to. ?Indigo stood up turned her back and began to play those strange erratic non-songs she played each night.? Indigo followed the music instead of making the music follow her. It was attempt to let the music take her on a journey far from the streets of Charleston that held all the pain of her past and her people?s past. Her attempt to challenge what was traditionally thought of, as music is a heavy postmodern theme. Much of post modernism is about challenging what is normal and making people uncomfortable with it long enough until they begin to appreciate it or bring you back to the ?correct? way of thinking.
Indigo is in search of a place to express herself. Her mother forbids her to play in the house anymore unless she has lessons. Indigo knows that if she takes lessons the violin will no longer sing. Indigo?s mother tried to place Indigo into a mold that said music had to sound a certain way or make you fell a certain way. Indigo?s mother is very representational of society and its attempt to make things fit. This is contrary to the ideas of post modernism and its almost urgency to not find places for everything. Indigo?s haven became the underground of Charleston where people went to gamble and drink. She played in the bars to men who had experienced more than she could imagine. She brought out their soul with her un-melodic music. She had the ability to take away their pain for just five minutes as she played her violin. Her music offered an escape that they ahd not known was there. However much like her mother the people began to realize that they could not take all the honesty that Indigo expressed fron her music and they once again placed restraints on what she palyed. Mabel, the bosses girfriend wnet out and purchased records for Indigo and she learned to play by ear because she had no other choice. Suddenly her music lost ots passion and desire as she was no longer able to express her emotions and the emotions of the people she pkayed for. She had been place in a box with a label on her. Much like the world tires to do to all literature, and people.
Another intresting facet of this story is the challenge to linear structure. Shange in writing this challenges the readers idea of how a story should be placed together. In fdoing that hough she insert cultural ideas and expectations. Half way through the story indented on the page our Indigo?s folk ideas about how to pick a lucky number