The Manifestation of a Black Girl Lost
Eva’s Man (1976), dubbed a “Blues Novel” by Gayl Jones is categorized in the black women writer’s series, but could easily fit into the psychological writers series along with novels or shorts by Flannery O’Connor. I was taken by this novel, it was the first thing I had read by her and was so excited by her artistry, and I quickly followed with other literature by her as well as her poetry and critique. Eva’s Man replaced Rosa Guy’s Bird at my Window for my favorite book. Jones book was unlike anything I had ever read (I have Bambara Salt Eaters, Butler’s Bloodchild and Kincaid’s At the Bottom of the River). Eva’s Man excited me like Poe writings did in high school and how Goines writings did outside of high school. I enjoyed reading Eva’s Man because of the muliti- layered, faceted elements. Eva’s Man captured the African American psyche and in particularly the African American female psyche, the sociology of the black community, this strange love/hate dynamic of the black male and female relationship and the sometimes contradictory, double consciousness that we all as humans and individuals are capable of.
Eva’s Man was cleverly written in where know one group was singled out as the bad guy sort-of-speak, and no one group or person was the standout victim, we (African Americans) are all in this taught, learned and practiced insanity together. Also, the power point for me is in the first-person narrative. We, the reader follow the story as told by Eva the protagonist, who takes us on this erratic ride through the present and the past, as her mind moves through events not sequenced we are moved; one paragraph will be what is happening at the moment and the next sentence will be a thought from her past that came or was jarred from a word or action.
The lid of the worm jar is opened within the first couple of pages, in speaking of the wide range of elements in dealing with the psyche: “All during the trial I wouldn’t talk to anybody….after I came here (psychiatric prison) I tell them (doctors, reporters, whites) so much I don’t even get it straight anymore” (Jones pg. 5). There is a rightfully so distrust in the court/law system when it comes to African Americans when we know there are laws set-up against our community specifically, and to be led in front of a judge, with a jury most likely fill with white people (of our peers) who holds a gavel, that is too much like a slave auction with the same uncertainties. Once Eva’s fate is determined and she can talk without helping or more so hurting her fate, a flood gate of words happens to the point of and moving into the psyche of the African American female. “I tell them it ain’t me lying, its memory lying. I don’t believe that, because the past is still as hard on me as the present, but I tell them that anyway” (Jones pg.5). In this one quote Jones gives us, the reader a key clue in her personal state of mind, she is contradicting what she is saying her lying, Jones is letting us know that her as well as women like her grew-up hard, which is also making a statement on the black community she belongs too. All through the book/novel there is this sexual dynamic between the black male and female, this love/ hate and again without making one group more at fault it is a cycle completly left open to the readers own perceptions, like that joke who's on first base?!? My perception is a trail leading as far back as Willie lynch and integration (yeah I know ). Women are a verbal creature and African American women we have been oppressed most, our loads have to be lighten for us to carry on; Eva’s load was lighten in the hospital by talking to anyone of the (white) people (repoters, doctors etc.) who would listen, yet, outside it was lighten through violence, which repeats itself through watching her father beat on her mother, stories she heard through the neighborhood conversation/gossip, through the sexual attempts on her and it goes on.
While most of the critique I came across was mostly related to Corregidora Jones first novel, many lumped the two together, it was very interesting to see that a lot of the things I gotten out of reading Eva’s Man was in fact supported by these critics. In one critique the author, “how Jones constructs the “consensual” heterosexual scene in terms of the formal scene of torture, with its structures of domination, use of interrogation and appropriation of expressions of pain into vehicles for the dominant party’s power/pleasure. This reading intervenes in discourses of pain, torture and trauma that have typically universalized the experience of a “body” in pain, foregrounding the ways in which systems of racial(no so much in Eva’s Man) and sexual oppression” (1) which produced different experiences and effects of pain for women of color. I love the way, Newsweek combined Jones personal life, her blues novel and Ellison’s description of the blues stating “how like the women in her blues novels Ursa and Eva lived a life of quiet desperation, volcanic desire, male dominance and distrust of white Americans…..raw, sexually explicit and violent, psychologically dense and painfully poignant, the language of the vernacular voices transgresses thematic and stylistic conventions. Jones fingers the jagged grain of the legacy of slavery and that of black women in love and trouble of society, the struggle to transform as they tell their own stories and sing their own songs in their African American vernacular voices” (2).
In After the Pain: Critical essays on Gayl Jones is where I found the best validation as she speaks directly to the dynamics of Eva’s Man in conjunction with the black male and female relationship, “Jones paints a picture of African American male psychologically, literally imprisoning an African American female or at least creating an environment in which her ability to leave is not matched by her comfort level in attempting to leave” (3). It goes beyond that to me Eva struggle was in the desperation she feels in trying to convince her man, that she is not the way he thinks she is, not just her person being oppressed/suppressed but her own identity and her voice. The novel is filled with men defining her by the way she looks and not by whom she is or her even being allowed the opportunity to say who she is… She is fighting a stereotype of bitch, evil etc…when at every turn that is what she is called. Her quote ends with “black people in America enslave themselves and each other”.
In short Eva’s Man is a novel about a young woman, Eva Medina Canada, who because of a long history of sexual and emotional abuse, ends up in a mental institution for murdering her lover and castrating him with her teeth. The story is what manifests from the past abuses lived and living in the present flesh. As the story begins Eva is in the mental prison and it ends with her in the mental prison, a place where the author herself spent a short time (4). The author Jones shares a strong common bond with the women in her first two-novels, Eva being one. Jones states herself in an interview, “I am interested in the psychology of my characters-and the way(s) in which they order their stories-their myths, dreams, nightmares, secrets worlds, ambiguities, contradictions, memories, imaginations, their puzzles…I am interested in human relationships(4).
Eva’ Man for such a simple premise, it plunges the reader into layers and layers of the black experience, without the finger pointing, the scapegoating, the implications of fault on the black man or the matratichy system. Eva’s Man is psychological as we are witnessing the thoughts first hand and should give us a sense of the what, whys and how’s of the story. It is open, (the novel) to our own perception, making it more personal. It is emotionally filled with some recognizable aspects and situation still plaguing the black community today. Lastly, Eva’s Man is uniquely done and highly entertaining.