Mumbo Jumbo Outline
This history of Jes Grew and its relationship to Jes Grew carry with them a long history that conveniently explains an aspect of the world that is hard to swallow. Racism.
The Mutafikah’s fight against racism. The VooDoo practitioners fight against it. And they both carry with them an ideology – a long way of explaining racism’s history. And Ishmael Reed asks us – he dares us to doubt their history. When we read his conspiracy theory, we become the Gainese art collector. We embody the university educated Atonists that we are and we say, it’s fiction.
But at the end of the day it’s an explanation that works. It makes sense why all the racism exists. It serves a function. Racism towards non-white arts and values exists because denying others their true form of expression gives them power. Set wants to stay in power over Osiris because he is jealous and he enlists the western world and its prophets to help him. Thus Jes Grew is degraded as an ideal – as a complete whole.
Similarly, Winnie explains her life in terms of luck. These terms of luck help Winnie understand her life that was unjustly uncharitable at times. Just as Atonicism and it’s origins explain why the west is so good at unjustly keeping people down, the artbitrary rules of luck and respect help Winnie make sense of her world. Things happen to her because of bad luck.
“No, I’m not being superstitious. I am only saying that’s how it happened.”
Again, we are dared with our Western values to doubt a different way of rationalizing the world. But with closer examination, we can’t do it. Winnie’s understanding of the world is sound. She has made it through incredible hardships in tact because of her way of seeing the world.
Both these novels present characters that must face their world with a unique understanding of their world. It helps them understand their world. Triumphant or not, they live as beacons of light in a life that could otherwise be bleak and without hope.
Mumbo Jumbo Examples:
Examples of the LaBas understanding of the world:
Mumbo Jumbo page 160-200 – the full history of the Book of Thoth
Page 50: LaBas prepares dishes for the loas
The Epilogue: LaBas shrewdly acknowledges his hold on the truth despite others’ non-belief
Conversation with Abdul – page 33-41
62 – Jung Quote – Gods of the East vs. Gods of the West
LaBas’ conversation with his daughter – clearly different opinions on openness regarding sex
Page 28 – explanation of feeding the loa
Examples of Racism:
Page 110-115 Thor being convinced by Biff Musclewhite
Page 22: the men speak of Haiti having no valuable art – Absurd.
Uses of the word primitive on pages 57, 83, 97, 99, and 111
Page 16 – obsession with seeing black hands come in contact with white crop
Page 17 – Harding – “Let’s get rid of the wiggle and wobble”
Kitchen God’s Wife Examples:
123 – Winnie explains the difference between luck and chance
308+252 – injustices on her friends’ and Wen Fu’s part
312, 257 – self-awareness of tendency to blame women
247 – scissors fall – “If you think I am only being superstitious… why did it happen?”
29-30 – Pearl’s explanation of her mother’s superstitions
41 – Winnie looks for the ghost in Pearl’s room
341 – Winnie and Jimmy disagree on the luck/fate of their meeting once again