JAMES A. WREN
"A threnody of nostalgia about pain," Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye builds upon "the memories of illnesses" in a world populated by characters who "licked their lips and clucked their tongues in fond remembrance of pains they had endured—childbirth, rheumatism, croup, sprains, backaches, piles." The one illness sufficiently elaborated upon, however, ends not with forbearance but in death.
In the spring when Cholly was fourteen years old "Aunt Jimmy ... went to a camp meeting that took place after a rainstorm, and the damp wood of the benches was bad for her. Four or five days afterward, she felt poorly...." When the advice from her neighbors proved ineffective in treating her malaise, M'Dear was brought in. A woman who "loomed taller than the preacher who accompanied her" and "seemed to need her hickory stick not for support but for communication," she is venerated as "a competent midwife and decisive diagnostician." Supported as much by a deductive methodology based upon observance and verification as by her walking stick, it is her skills that set her apart from those neighbors whose lives are governed by "prolific, if contradictory" superstitions.
When she arrives, M'Dear quickly sets about deducing a medical history of her patient by making full use of all available clues. The acute onset of illness, "the foul odor of an old woman's stools," and the delirium as____________________