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American Wild Zones

Space, Experience, Consciousness


Jerzy Kamionowski and Jacek Partyka

The contributors understand the wild zone as denoting the existence and experience of a group (ethnic, social, sub-cultural, sexual, religious, etc.) which is/was marginalized in American society. Reaching far beyond the boundaries of original agenda (Edwin Ardener’s and Elaine Showalter’s), the term’s applicability has been significantly enlarged. Its fluidity or fuzziness, however, ought to be taken as a blessing: in the rapidly changing contemporary («liquid») world it is the language that needs to keep up with new circumstances and developments, not the other way round.
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(De)Marginalizations of Wild Zones in Gloria Naylor’s Bailey’s Cafe


← 130 | 131 →Agnieszka Łobodziec

In Bailey’s Cafe, Gloria Naylor presents tropes of difference that draw thick lines of demarcation between the dominant and the subjugated. The character-narrator Bailey, the owner of a café, relates his own experience and the experiences of individual clients, for instance, an abused woman, a female drug addict, a jobless cross-dressed man, a circumcised woman – whose relegation to wild zones stems from the misuse of racial, gender, and class categories. Interestingly, apart from their being on the receiving end of varied forms of marginalization, Gloria Naylor also portrays her characters’ development of self-worth, expression of particularity, and escape from confining spaces as manifesting pursuit towards demarginalization.

In Gloria Naylor’s Bailey’s Cafe, the characters reflect upon or experience various forms of marginalization. Bailey, the principal narrator in the novel, describes domestic racial segregation as the major marginalizing factor. He considers two arenas – combat and sport – within which black people have achieved only seeming recognition, as Jim Crow is too deeply rooted in the political system and white psychology to be fully transcended by black presence in military service and sport. Abroad, he experiences war as a wild zone of native inhabitants, whom he has been trained to perceive as hostile enemies. During his combat training, Bailey undergoes anti-Japanese indoctrination before embarking for the hostile Asian wilderness. The inflammatory discourse between the commander and recruits is meant to ignite wild, homicidal rage against the Japanese: “Who you gonna kill?/We’re gonna kill Japs!/Louder/Japs...

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