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Motherhood is essential for a child’s development in many societies. There are many experiences that each mother experiences throughout their motherly years. In ‘Salvage the Bones,’ Jesmyn Ward brings in the topic of Motherhood. Ward represents Motherhood throughout all of the chapters using multiple examples. For some background information, Salvage the Bones is about a one-parent family in Bois Sauvage that each has their problems while a young hurricane Katrina made its way through the Gulf of Mexico. The representation of Motherhood is displayed through many cases like Esch, China, Mama, and Katrina. Mama died after giving birth to the youngest in the family, but Motherhood and Mama’s love affected Esch and her development. Jesmyn Ward uses China in ‘Salvage the Bones’ to mother her puppies and her mother’s Esch’s flashbacks to show how Esch grows and defines Motherhood.
Esch’s cynical about Motherhood at the beginning of the story because she’s so paranoid that she can’t call a child what’s inside her. ‘What would be the babysitting in my belly like a water balloon makes me feel ready to burst’ (Ward 45). Esch is too afraid that it will become possible if she calls what is inside her a child. Esch then starts growing up as a mother and finally accepting what’s in her. ‘My belly is as strong as a squash, for this baby is within me’ (Ward 57). Esch is no longer afraid if he does. She even calls herself a mom at the very end of the book. ‘China’s going to bark and call me Sister…… she’s going to know that I’m a mother.’ She says it shows readers how much Esch has grown throughout the book. She went from not being able to recognize the baby’s reality inside her to finally be able to call herself a mom and equate herself with Mom and China. From experiences with them, she learned how to do all this.
One of the most significant ways in which Motherhood is conveyed in Ward’s book Salvage the Bones is through the memories of Esch’s relationship with MamaMama. Esch seems to be concerned about her daughter. Each flashback that Esch saw how much MamaMama loved her children. One flashback, in particular, Esch speaks of a time when they were fishing, and Dad caught his hook in Mama’s hand. Mama didn’t make a scene in front of her children. Calmly, she stitched her hand back up and went on with her day. Esch talks about how she could feel the scar left from Daddy’s hook every time she held her mother’s hand. This recollection said what motherhood is all about. Mothers first think of their children. When mothers get hurt, it’s not a big deal, because they have to take care of their injuries quickly, so that they can take care of their children.
When one of the Chinese puppies gets sick, Esch’s brother, Skeetah, decides to kill the puppy so that none of the other puppies will get sick. After Skeetah kills the puppy, China does not mourn the loss of the puppy. She’s still feeding her other puppies. This shows Esch a large part of how motherhood is supposed to be. When something terrible happens, mothers do not just stop and mourn; they carry on and take care of their children as best they can. After the puppy dies, Esch’s brother decides to get a cow wormer, so that the other puppies and China won’t get sick. If he sends the cow wormer to China, she gets sick. Even though she’s tired, China still feeds her puppies. This is another big part of motherhood, too. Mothers are not taking sick days. They’ve got to take care of their children, even if they don’t feel well.
China does not treat her puppies as a mother should treat her children. One day, when Esch and her brother are trying to get China to eat their food, China decides to eat one of her puppies instead. Esch and her brother believe that the cow wormer had caused her to do this. It could have been because she was born as a fighter, not a mother. Her puppy got in the way of her food, so she was fighting for it. This scene may not seem like a motherhood lesson, but it does. Mothers are fighting for their children. It may not seem that China is fighting for her puppies, but she saw something coming in the way of her and her puppies, and she was fighting it.
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