Biblical Echoes and Communal Home in Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones
Keywords:Hurricane Katrina, African Americans, Bible, Deuteronomy, Home
Jesmyn Ward’s second novel, Salvage the Bones (2011), offers a literary account of an African American family in dire poverty struggling to weather the horrors of Hurricane Katrina on the outskirts of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi. This article focuses on the novel’s ‘ideology of form’, which is premised on biblical models of narration —grounded on a literary transposition of The Book of Deuteronomy— that serves to portray the victimization of African Americans in mythical tones to evoke the country’s failed covenant between God and his chosen people. It also brings into focus the affective bonds of unity and communal healing relying on the idiosyncratic tenet of home understood as national space— following Winthrop’s foundational ideology. As I will argue, the novel contends that the revamped concept of communal home and familial bonds —echoing Winthrop’s emblem of national belonging— recasts the trope of biblical refuge as a potential tenet to foster selfassertion and to rethink the limits of belonging and acceptance.
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