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Alice Walker that her works demonstrate a creation of modern American Mythology. So much so that her thematic works of modern mythology, riddled with the feminine, not the feminist, have been given a special name, womanism. (Colton and Walker 33-44) In the sense that her characters tell enduring stories about universal problems of the human condition, especially the condition of those subjugated by the majority, e.g. women and African-Americans. Yet it can also be argued that Walker's thematic representation of character and universal human conflict is also a retelling of classic mythological themes. In Walker's short story, Her Sweet Jerome, she represents a retelling of the story of Media.
In a very clear and basic outline of the story one can see the correlation between the fable of Media and the story within Her Sweet Jerome. Medea also uses the promise of wealth and a sacrificial gift of the Golden Fleece as a way to win Jason, and she goes through all the same stages of loss, with Jason's loss of interest in her and their family.
In Her Sweet Jerome, the main character, an older woman of some means, buys herself a younger husband and then becomes jealous of his "mistress" (she is sure he has one, since he ignores her). We see her consumed with finding the woman; the protagonist is a funny, then pathetic, then tragic, figure, flailing and raging against the mysterious mistress, whom she never understands is not a person, but the revolution. (Elsley 173)
The universal story of adultery, some would say, yet those factors which makes it most like Media are threefold: Media and Walker's character both lose their inheritance and in a strong sense the connection they have with their family, when they choose their partner. Both women marry, outside of their understood culture and the women in both works have a strong homicidal, violent reaction to the realization that their husband is no longer faithful to them but instead chooses his own culture over his promise to her. Jason was an adventurer in a quest to regain his throne, in a land far from Medea's home. She accepts his proposal to help him retrieve the Golden fleece and in so doing she forsakes her father and her brother, who will never receive her again.
[Jason] ... found means to plead his cause to Medea, daughter of the king. He promised her marriage, and as they stood before the altar of Hecate, called the goddess to witness his oath. Medea yielded, and by her aid, for she was a potent sorceress, he was furnished with a charm, by which he could encounter safely the breath of the fire-breathing bulls and the weapons of the armed men. (Bulfinch 131)
In Walker's work the woman, finds herself attracted to a man outside of her intellect and culture. He is small she is large and in addition to that he is poor and educated while she lives a colorful and crass lifestyle as a well-made hairdresser.
Her trouble started noticeably when she fell in love with a studiously quiet schoolteacher, Mr. Jerome Frankiln Washington III, who was ten years younger than her ... (Walker 25) When her father dies he proudly left his money to the "schoolteacher" to share or not with his wife, as he had Learnin' enough to see fit." Jerome had "learnin' enough" to no to give his wife one cent. (Walker 30)
So she loses her inheritance to a man who spends it, rather quickly on something he simply says is "Something very big." (Walker 31) Just as Medea she basically voluntarily relents her progeny by her choice as a partner.
In the story of Medea is the history of a woman who chooses a man who is from a distant land, and is also the enemy of her family. He is of a noble family from Athamas while Medea was a noble daughter of the land of Colchis. (Bulfinch 130) The lands were far enough from one another that Medea's character, especially her sorcery, revered in her own land was only tolerated after it was proven to be used for good. Their cultures were very different and this created a distinct rift in their relationship, in the end.
In Walker's work the people her character associated with were those in her beauty shop the antithesis of those Jerome associated with, and those who teased her about his absence and his poor treatment of her. He would talk only to his colleges, whom he referred to as "comrades." (Walker 29-30) He associated with only those who agreed with his politics and his wife could not even understand the point of his "revolution."
One of the women, the only one of his group who acknowledged her, laughingly asked her if she had come to "join the revolution." .. Jerome rose from among the group of men, who sat in a circle on the other side of the room, and without paying any attention to her, began reciting some of the nastiest sounding poetry she'd ever heard. She left the room in shame and confusion, and no one bothered to ask why she'd stood so long staring at them, or whether she needed anyone to show her out. (Walker 32)
Upon her discovery of what most people would have seen as obvious, her husbands affiliation with a black power, hate group she had found his mistress, not the flesh and blood one that she expected but one that was even more frightful to her, as she had no understanding of it and no power over it.
Medea finding that she could not convince Jason not to forsake her for an alliance with a political ally, in his marriage took control of the situation as she always had, with her sorcery. Even though she had been the one to retrieve his throne for him by killing his usurper uncle Jason was convinced that this political alliance, akin to his culture would be best for everyone and that Medea should stand aside and allow it.
Jason, for whom she had done so much, wishing to marry Creusa, princess of Corinth, put away Medea. She, enraged at his ingratitude, called on the gods for vengeance, sent a poisoned robe as a gift to the bride, and then killing her own children, and setting fire to the palace, mounted her serpent-drawn chariot and fled to Athens, (Bulfinch 136)
Medea murdered her own children and her husbands intended bride, and then violently destroyed her and Jason's home. Her grief was turned to the anger of a woman scorned and set aside unfairly. She had been very loyal, given up a great deal for her marriage to Jason, all at his bidding and she did not expect to be set aside by him for his culture.
Walker's character continued to search for a clue to her demise, and her husband's infidelity. She had torn apart their home repeatedly, stalked the streets at night looking for the woman who was stealing her man, given up her business (her child), and lost her ability to keep her house or even her own body which once held a beauty she felt in her soul and had great pride in. On her return home from having found her husband reading his obcene poetry to his "comrades" she returned home and continued her frentic search for clues. What she found were her husbands hidden books.
In a rush it came to her; "it ain't no woman." Just like that It had never occurred to her there could be anything more serious ... Coated in grit, with dust sticking to the pages, she held in her crude, indelicate hands, trembling now, a sizeable pile of paperback books ....Fists and guns appeared everywhere. "Black"…[continue]
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