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Jadine feels alienated from her race and also feels at
odds with the traditional roles for women. She longs to discover
a way of living her life that ignores the constraints of race or
gender, and this desire helps motivate her move to Europe from the
island. But circumstances and other characters continually thwart
her efforts to escape the constraints of being a black woman. Her
upbringing and education have made her feel most comfortable around
white, European culture. But even as she enjoys this white culture,
she worries about whether she will betray her race if she stays
in Europe, continues to pursue the largely white-run modeling industry,
and marries her white boyfriend, Ryk. Early on in the novel, a black
woman in a yellow dress spits on Jadine, because Jadine lacks an
authentic black identity. This experience reflects Jadine’s nervousness
about her racial identity. Although Jadine is black, she is very
different from the other black characters in the novel in terms
of thoughts, passions, possessions, and family connections.
Jadine is also very different from the other women in
the novel in that she rejects the maternal role. She does not want
to be a mother, but she feels anxious and guilty about rejecting
this role: In Eloe, she dreams that black women aggressively bare
their breasts at her. Through her relationship with Son, Jadine
tries to imagine what it would be like to be firmly connected to
the black race and to other women. She fantasizes that she and Son
form a family. But the trip to Eloe makes Jadine realize that a
relationship with Son will not eradicate her concerns about what
it means to be black or a woman. At the end of the novel, she returns
to Europe, as if she has decided to forget her concerns about betraying
her race or her gender.