Voyages Beyond Lust and Lactation
The Climacteric as Seen in Novels by Sylvia Wynter, Beryl Gilroy, and Paule Marshall
JANICE LEE LIDDELL
The older woman is a strong and pervasive presence in both Caribbean life and literature. She is often the steadfast stabilizing force in many Caribbean homes, both real and fictive. As African American critic Gloria Wade-Gayles writes of African-American older women, Caribbean women are also "the bridge between generations, the perpetuators of . . . culture, the griots (reciters) of family history, the disciplinarians, housekeepers, cooks and repositories of wisdom and strength" (58). Unfortunately, however, the literary role these women have traditionally held has been more singular. In fiction, the Caribbean woman over sixty is generally relegated to the strong, sacrificing, "no-nonsense" grandmother figure--a postmenopausal archetype. Myriad Caribbean authors have found little else to do with her than to commit her to this singular women's destiny. In the literature, she is rarely the focus; she inevitably plays a supportive role or makes a few cameo appearances. Few readers undoubtedly have even wondered about the possible complexities of this older woman's life. Though perhaps one of the most well-known fictional characters (nearly every work has a grandmother or grandmother figure), the postclimacteric or postmenopausal woman may, in fact, be the least understood character in Caribbean literature.
Although the grandmother role may be the predominant social function of the older Caribbean woman, for many it is most certainly not the only one. For a significant number of postclimacteric women, different and challenging destinies are inevitably in the offing. According to sociologist/novelist Erna Brodber, until this century, if women were able to