Bella Makes Life by Lorna Goodison
In Bella Makes Life by Lorna Goodison we have the theme of liberation, change, control, conflict, selfishness and fear. Taken from her Baby Mother and the King of Swords collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story it becomes clear to the reader that Goodison may be exploring the theme of liberation. How Bella is dressed when she arrives back to Jamaica shows how independently minded she is. She would be fully aware that nobody else was dressed like her. Also as the story progresses it is noticeable that Blossom has developed her own sense of dress. She too like Bella feels liberated. This liberation may be important as both Bella and Blossom achieve independence and freedom without the assistance of a man (Joe Joe). If anything Joe Joe may feel as though both women have changed. He is no longer in control. Especially when Bella returns from America. She takes over the house, which is hers too, and sells cloths in order to improve her standard of living.
This may be important because Joe Joe is the opposite of Bella. He is happy about his living conditions, his job and his family. He longs for nothing else. Something that puts Joe Joe in conflict with Bella who obviously is seeking more out of life. As too is Blossom. She arrives back from America as well only to disappoint Joe Joe who through fear is afraid of the advances or changes that Blossom has made to herself. In reality Joe Joe has lost the two women he loved most because of his fear of change. Though some critics might suggest that Joe Joe should really only be loving one woman it might be case that Goodison includes Blossom into the story in order to highlight the possibility that Joe Joe is being selfish and not honouring his wedding vows to Bella.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The setting or rather the use of America as a back drop could suggest that Goodison is playing off the American Dream. Though Bella is working two jobs she still manages to live a full life in America. She has friends that she can socialize with and a sponsor who keeps her on the straight and narrow. The loud clothes worn by Bella may also symbolise cultural appropriation. At least that is what Joe Joe may think. The fact that Joe Joe is also having an affair with Blossom could suggest he needs reassurances because he is afraid of how Bella has changed. He may also be jealous of Bella’s life in America and not trust her fidelity and as such is cheating on Bella.
The end of the story is interesting as not only do Joe Joe and Bella break up but Joe Joe also feels the need to end his relationship with Blossom. It is as though Joe Joe is admitting defeat when it comes to the women in his life. He is unable to accept that both women are liberated and cannot be controlled. It is this control that some critics might suggest is foremost in the story. Man’s desire to control a woman (or women) and failing in the process due to the inability to accept strong independent women in their lives. It is a divide which has existed since time began and continues to this day. The one who will suffer the most in the story is Joe Joe. His needs are not being met because of his inability to accept Bella’s (or Blossom’s) way of life. Joe Joe is to remain lonely until he comes to terms with strong women in his life. He cannot control his own environment never mind the lives of Bella and Blossom. Though he tries to when he tells Blossom she cannot see the other man. Also he is dictating to a strong woman when it comes to Bella who knows that she wants more out of life. Something that is important to her and other women around the world. Bella’s only fault is that she wants to better herself and her family’s lives.