Date of Award

Fall 1-6-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Gavin Hollis

Second Advisor

Dr. Jeremy Glick

Academic Program Adviser

Dr. Janet Neary


This thesis focuses on how Gloria Naylor used Caliban from Shakespeare's The Tempest as inspiration for her character George, and how her evolution of the character reveals issues within the literary and academic community at the time of her writing. George fulfills Caliban’s limitations in that he has more power and autonomy than Caliban, but the tragedy of his death reveals that he has lost part of himself in order to gain that power. This idea that education and society can cause a loss of self is personal for Naylor, who encountered only white male authors in school and struggled to picture herself as one of them. This thesis explores Naylor’s attitudes toward the canonical white authors that she read while in school to examine her motivations in writing Mama Day. Then, it analyzes Naylor’s interest in The Tempest and how narratives shaped power structures in The Tempest. It also explains how Naylor subverts those structures in Mama Day to create a more equitable narrative structure for her characters and to give her reader power as an active listener. Next, it shows that Naylor is participating in a long tradition of using Caliban to question existing power structures, and how she has small but achievable goals for her engagement with Caliban in Mama Day. Later, this thesis shifts focus to a direct analysis of Caliban and George’s characterization to argue that they are characters who are only partially realized because Caliban is not treated as human and George suppresses parts of his humanity. This is important because if George had allowed himself to be more impulsive like Caliban, he would have survived. This thesis also explains how George’s failure to listen is redeemed in the narrative structure of Mama Day, and why the narrative structure of Mama Day offers a solution to both George’s fractured identity and Naylor’s criticisms of the canon.



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