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Argument Paper



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February 23, 2019

The Good Negress


Penned down by the novelist Verdelle, the good negress is a story of a 12-year-old girl who strives to find her own identity in the presence of his stepfather and brothers. The story plots the life of an African American heroine, Denise, and her pursuit of finding her own identity and chasing a ‘better’ life. The girl is left, by her divorced mother, with the grandma while her two brothers stayed with the mother. Due to Denise’s life with her grandma, she becomes mature enough to act above her age. As the writer states ‘a 75 year old mentality in a head that is only 12’. She is called on by her mother after five years to assist her expecting mother. Though the girl feels upset in her heart of being left when she lost her father and now being called only to help her and babysit the child. However, during her life with her mother, two grown-up brothers and stepfather she experiences numerous challenges and sets on to find her own identity.

Missus Pearson

In her pursuit of a better life, the role of Missus Pearson cannot be left unmarked. Missus Pearson is she meets her teacher Missus Pearson.  She notices the matters going on with Denise and comes to know about why Denise was here and also about her family life. It was Misses Pearson who named her ‘the good negress’. The teacher made efforts to bring betterment to the young girl’s life and tried under her teacher wings to provide her the necessary lessons she needed to learn and assist her to keep the light in her heart and not diminish her own identity in serving her family.

Missus Pearson and Denise:

Missus Pearson makes her appearance when Denise attends the school in Detroit. She is her teacher who assists her learn English. The honest efforts in teaching Denise English were reflected in the novel numerous times. Missus Pearson taught Denise to be independent. Although, the lesson that miss Pearson delivered focused on the education, they sprang beyond the classroom time too. One example from the writing is when Denise decides to write to her grandmother regarding Detroit life and Miss Pearson. This was the first time ever she did anything without pondering much over her family. This depicted she started being independent and the lessons of Miss Pearson were actually having an impact on Denise’s day to day activities. Another scenario from the story that marks the same lesson she learned was when Miss Pearson suggested Denise to use the dictionary when asked about a word. Miss Pearson’s reply roots confidence in the young girl to be able to find anything she wants to learn. Through such cases, the author has depicted an honest and devoted nature of the teacher who assists and groom her pupil even outside the premises of the school.

The tremendous efforts put in by the teacher assisted the child greatly in adopting English as her medium of communication. Denise was guided by her teacher to use ‘No’ for a negation instead of ‘Naw’. Then during her conversation with her mother, Denise uses the word ‘No’ which reflects how the lessons of Miss Pearson were helping Denise in language grooming and the ability to deliver an accurate speech. The efforts and necessity of Miss Pearson can be observed with the fact that it was only for Miss Pearson that Denise could learn the right way to spell her name. This shows a lack of consideration on Denis’s side by her mother as. Spelling a name is something that children. Learn at an age when they start to write and speaks.


Missus Pearson’s Conflict

Conflicts can be termed to be a necessary part of writing. In the writing, ‘the good negress’, a conflict can be witnessed between missus Pearson and Denise’s mother, Margaret. As the teachings and lessons of Miss Pearson come to fruition and a tad difference appears in Denise, she is taken out of school. There is another scenario that reflects Miss Pearson’s honest efforts to Denise- when the young girl is taken out of the school in order to care for Margaret’s child, the teacher pleads her mother to let her get back to school. Though the intention of Miss Pearson in such reaction was clearly fair and good, this frowned and even confused Denise and even her mother. Denise’s conflict with Miss Pearson evolved only at the specific point in the novel, she viewed her as her Hero and admired her role in her life.

As the writer mentions Denise’s thought as

But Missus Pearson had a righteous nerve coming up in Margarete’s house like that . . . coming in to tell a lady what she ought to do with her own daughter.”

Denise thought that approaching her mother through letters and then showing up at home was ‘crossing boundaries’. She felt that she had no right to show up and inform Margaret about what she should be doing to her own daughter.

Now, the conflict between Miss Pearson and Margaret need a discussion. The author has represented Margaret as a traditionalist mother who has bounded her daughter to never-ending house chores, responsibilities of the family and a sense to take care of everyone- a nurturer. This mentality can be grasped when she decides to leave Denise with her grandma but takes the boys with her. The author has stated that Margaret also led a similar life, and this is why she never thinks outside the box for her daughter. This is reflected from the statement of Margaret to Denise during her labor: “she had hopes and dreams once upon a time but that “Your father wanted children and I had them…men want children”. Therefore, the conflict between the two can be summed up as a reason for one’s life experiences.

Missus Pearson has a strong role in the whole novel and she owes making the foundation of independence and a better future in Denise’s life.



Day, Lisa B. “I Reach to Where the Freedom Is”: The Influence of the Slave Narrative Tradition on AJ Verdelle’s The Good Negress.” Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction41.4 (2000): 411-424.

Ullmo, Anne. “The Good Negress by AJ Verdelle, or The Religion of the Ordinary.” Revue françaised’étudesaméricaines 4 (2002): 100-105.

Verdelle, A. J. The Good Negress: A Novel. Algonquin Books, 1995.

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