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The story Sister Lilith by Fanonne Jeffers is written in African American language where the narrator, ‘Lilith’ tries to reclaim her identity. The storyline is Afrofuturistic because human creation started in Africa and the concept of feminism was introduced by Lilith and it is now what women are striving all over the world. Lilith is a feminist and a first woman who was created equally as Adam- the first man on earth. The story is comprised of a Jewish and Christian bible tales explaining creation of life on earth. The focus area of this essay is of Lilith as a woman who does not let men defy her and it will also be analysed using Hebrew, Sumerian and western tradition ideas on how they explain who Lilith is and her feminist traits. Lilith, meaning “the screech owl” or the “night creature” is a brave, free spirited and powerful woman who refuses to let men have authority over her and she lives by her own rules.
Hebrew tradition explains how Lilith wanted to have equal powers as Adam. Lilith’s belief that she is equally created with Adam can be justified because they were made at the same time “me and that man were twins, born together”. Lilith and Adam came out of the hot mud, but they were cold, which shows that they both need to rely on each other for warmth, safety and support. Them having to rely on each other shows that none of them is superior because they equally need each other for survival. Lilith’s claims that she older and wiser than Adam made her to refuse being controlled by men. Lilith is a strong woman goddess and always stands for what she believes in “I am a plainspoken woman. Always have been from the time my tongue moved”. She did not like Adam’s sexual behaviour but did not say anything about it, she just felt overpowered by Adam’s masculinity “Yah, he scared me because his muscles are trouble”. Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean that Adam is superior because Lilith’s definition of equality is not based on physical appearance but on how her and Adam should be equals in terms of decision making, freedom of speech and expression. Lilith approaching Yahweh (God) and demanding him to giver her wings to fly shows sign of bravery and how she is not intimidated by men. She was tired of being controlled by men that is why she finally chose to leave the Paradise to free herself from Adam regardless the upcoming consequences.
Lilith went to live at the banks of the Red sea where she was having sex with demons and giving birth to demon’s. It is ironic how she was complaining about her and Adam’s sexual behaviour and now she enjoys it. She tries to emphasise that it is not that she did not want to have sex with her husband, but she felt like she did not have a say and always had to submit to Adam. The idea of her submitting to him made her to feel caged and deprived of her own freedom. Lilith is explained from the Hebrew version as the snake that tempted Eve to eat the fruit of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden. Her saying “all I see on those pages is God and Snake” she is trying to emphasise how she I not even considered human because of her disobedience. She is no longer being referred to as Lilith because she was dismissed “now all of the sudden I’m bleached, I’m bone, a Jane-come lately”. Her refusal to submit to Adam made her loose her identity because she did not want to listen even when Satan told her to do so “I should have known Satan wouldn’t leave nobody’s well enough alone”. Satan is a man and that is why he took offense and decided to punish Lilith for her disobedience as it is believed that a woman must never challenge a man. It was very wrong of them to punish her like that, instead they should have realised the importance of a strong woman and try to honour her strength and bravery.
One of the powerful traits Lilith possesses is her fierce spirit. Even after everything was taken away from her, she remained strong and became a sexual demon instead. She explains how her being a sexual demonic behaviour is of good intension. Lilith is a sexual demon not to seduce but to be a watcher of men who do not marry and causes them to have wet dreams. She’s doing all this to ensure that men marry, and women do not birth illegitimate children. Her intensions are good because in todays society, mostly in black communities, it as a taboo for a woman to have a child out of wedlock and that is what Lilith was trying to address. Lilith’s presence is intended to restore humanity in African cultures. Lilith has a powerful and fierce spirit and men who believe in patriarchy tries to destroy her. She symbolises “a bird of wisdom” and she is a sister to Eve, Adam’s ‘second’ wife who was created from his rib. Lilith is a rare breed, and nothing seems to scare her “been to hell and back and know the touch of scales on my fingers”. Isiah 34:14 may be the explanation of Lilith. The name Lilith is not used here as she had already lost her identity at this time “… the night creature shall rest there”. The word “night creature” symbolises a demon, an outcast who is not fit to be considered human. The western African tradition is explaining how Adam and Lilith lived in the Garden of Eden. This seems to be true because Lilith explains how “there were flowers under the tall trees” in which her and Adam laid. But unfortunately, all that beauty was stolen from her after she was dismissed because of being a feminist. It is during the days where patriarchy was dominant, and it seemed disrespectful for Lilith to defy the rules set by men. Lilith conveys the message that as a woman, being rejected, punished and unfairly treated will always follow those who choose to live by their own rules and defy authority. She stresses on sexuality in most cases of the text and tries to emphasise that yes, humans are sexual beings, but no man should force a woman into sexual practices because of patriarchy.
Lilith does not approve of being ruled by any man and she is an assertive strong woman who know who she is and always striving for personal freedom. She does not become somebody else to be accepted. She even lost her identity and she try to reclaim it, but not by doing something she does not approve of- she will not let any man control her “and what matters and who remains is you and your child”. Lilith believes she is better off and content without a man than letting a man decide how she lives her life. For this, she is punished and lives her entire life as a she-devil. She was then made to have sexual relations with demons and bearing demonic children instead of human children. She even dismissed from the book of genesis where they talk about creation “all I see on those pages is God and Snake” and her son ‘Cain’ is also referred to as Eve’s child. However, I feel like to be cast out and being considered demonic or a snake because you do not obey your husband was a harsh and unfair punishment given to Lilith.
A woman who has self-awareness and possessing mysterious powers should not be considered inferior to a man. The holy bible still support patriarchy by labelling a husband as the head of a family “a head of a woman is her husband’. Lilith unfortunately had to suffer the consequences of choosing her way of life instead of living by the rules. Nonetheless, she seems content and without any regret of choosing her way of life even though it has cost her, her identity “can’t go nowhere except looking at everybody and this little bit of land I got. A few flowers and a vegetable garden. Even got an apple tree-ha!”. Lilith’s laugh may symbolize contentment, happiness and freedom from any man who wanted to control her. This is Lilith expressing how even after her identity being taken away from her she still has something to hold on to, something to keep her going and she never cease to fight for her self-worth and freedom of expression. Lilith is a true definition of a black queen- she perseveres against all odds.
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