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Coming of Age in Mississippi

Characters

Toosweet Davis (Mama)

Characters Toosweet Davis (Mama)

In many ways, Toosweet represents the older generation of rural African Americans in the deep South. She is constantly struggling to survive yet terrified of risking what little she has to challenge the system of inequality. But Toosweet is not just a symbol. As Moody’s mother, she is portrayed as a real person with real concerns and real fears. In many ways, as much as she symbolizes the older generation’s resistance to change, she also makes that resistance seem very understandable. Toosweet’s relationship with Anne becomes increasingly strained as Anne grows older and her horizons broaden. Toosweet becomes an obstacle to Anne, as she clings to her daughter and encourages her to become more like everyone else in their rural community. Toosweet does push her daughter to succeed in school, but her reason for wanting Anne to succeed is largely to prove to her new husband’s family that her children are the equals of their daughters. She does not think about her daughter attending college; in fact, when Anne’s gym teacher and coach pursues her romantically, Toosweet urges her to marry him.

Anne’s frustration with her mother is understandable. Still, Toosweet’s sadness at seeing her daughter distance herself from the family is poignant. Toosweet realizes that, in leaving behind her family’s way of life, Anne is starting to look down on her family. Anne even takes the opportunity of a mistake on her birth certificate to change her name from the one her mother gave her. Toosweet resists, but ultimately she gives in to her persuasive daughter. After Anne graduates from high school, she realizes that she has ignored her mother’s feelings in order to preserve her own ambition. She does not regret what she has done, but she also recognizes the pain her mother feels. Toosweet is most troubled by Anne’s involvement in the civil rights movement. She receives threats from the local sheriff that Anne must not return to town or she will be killed. Soon, her son Junior is nearly lynched and her brother Buck is beaten up because of Anne’s actions. Terrified, she writes letters to Anne begging her to quit the movement. Anne refuses.