Black Women Writers @ Southwestern University

An English / Feminist Studies / Race & Ethnicity Studies Course Blog

Margaret Garner: Free at Last ?

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In class today, the painting The Modern Medea by Thomas Satter White Noble was briefly mentioned (attached below). Being the art nerd that I am, I spent some time this evening sifting through the image and it’s representation of the event. Modern Medea

One thing that is interesting to note is the immediate separation of the “Margaret Garner” from the rest of the men in the picture. The white americans clump together on the left, cast in shadow and distant from the depicted Margaret. I think that White does an excellent job of laying fresh before his viewers how unable to empathize so many are with her situation; she stands alone figuratively but also realistically, bathed with a back drop of white walls that strike her in stark contrast.

Further along in my research, I found an article discussing the mythological figure Medea, arguing that once she had killed her children, she was free. I quote, “Medea is now finally untouched, untouchable by human hands (1320) and by human emotions… (March 35-6; 43)”

I think the idea of freedom is an interesting one here; could Margaret’s action be an ultimate stab at injustice? Could the murder of her children be a way to prove that no law, no impulse, no emotion can cage her? That she is free to make her own decisions, regardless of what society has to say about her afterwards?

I think these ideas are both shocking, for murder seems such a loud display of freedom; however, I can see where March is coming from, women being so chained that they must be radical and extreme.


One thought on “Margaret Garner: Free at Last ?

  1. I like the way you described the woman in stark contrast to the white walls behind her and therefore setting her apart. I think another important aspect of the painting is the children, the alive and dead, focused on their mother. The dead one’s hand is reaching towards their mother, while the alive one is attempting to get her attention. I think this speaks to Beloved and Denver and that even though their mother killed or would have killed them, they still ask for her attention.

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