Both books are published by Harvest Press. Her mother worked as a maid and her father was a sharecropper, a tenant who farmed a portion of the owner's land in exchange for a percentage of the proceeds from the harvested crop. This was a typical occupation for African Americans in the South at the time, and it was one that perpetuated the poverty and inequality rampant in the region. Notably, Walker's early experiences as an African American in the Jim Crow segregated South heavily influenced her later work. As a child, Walker began writing her own poetry but, when she was eight years old, her brother accidentally shot her with a BB gun.
As a result, she was blinded in her right eye. The disfiguring scar tissue caused her to withdraw and become more introverted, and she began to read and write in earnest. By high school, however, Walker's scars had been removed, and she proved to be popular among her fellow students. After high school, Walker began attending Spelman College in on a full scholarship, which was won in part on account of her disability.
There, she became involved in the civil rights movement, though she soon transferred to Sarah Lawrence College in While a student, she traveled to Africa, and when she returned she was pregnant. Walker had an illegal abortion abortion was not legal in the United States until , and she wrote several poems about her decision to do so, and of the emotions that she experienced during this period. Many of these poems were later included in her first full-length publication, a collection of poetry titled Once.
Walker graduated from Sarah Lawrence in , moved to Mississippi, and continued to work in the civil rights movement.
There, she met Melvyn Leventhal, a civil rights lawyer who was Jewish. The couple moved briefly to New York and married on March 17, Later that same year, they returned to Mississippi, and they were the first interracial married couple in the state, an honor that earned them death threats from the Ku Klux Klan.
Walker and Leventhal had a daughter, Rebecca, in , and they later divorced in In the early years of her marriage, Walker taught at Jackson State College from to and at Tougaloo College from to It was her first major success, and the collection was nominated for a National Book Award. Walker's first book of short stories, In Love and Trouble: Stories of Black Women , was also published that same year.
In , Walker moved to New York and worked as an editor for Ms. Her second novel, Meridian , another success, was published in Following her divorce that same year, Walker moved to California. Walker reached the height of her writing career in the ensuing period, publishing the poetry collection Good Night, Willie Lee, I'll See You in the Morning in The title poem of the collection was published four years prior in the Iowa Review. In , Walker published her most acclaimed work, the novel The Color Purple , which won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Notably, Walker was the first African American to win the prize in that category.
The same year, Walker held a writing post at the University of California in Berkeley, and a professorial post at Brandeis University. Additionally, from to , Walker cofounded and ran the Wild Tree Press. Throughout the s and s, Walker continued writing fiction and poetry, though she also made forays into children's literature, essays, and nonfiction. Throughout this later period, Walker has lectured around the country and has had several notable romances, including one with singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman.
As of , Walker was living in Northern California.
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Almost a fifth of the poem is comprised of the title phrase. Additionally, the poem is only two sentences long. The first sentence describes what the speaker has seen, and the second relates what the speaker has subsequently learned. The first line begins with the speaker stating that she is looking at her father, who is dead.
I will see you on thursday a.m. (instead of in the morning)
With the finality that accompanies death, the speaker's mother is described as speaking to her dead husband in a congenial and matter-of-fact tone. Much is made of the fact that the speaker's mother is not crying; nor is she angry or happy. This stress is derived from the noted absence of any strong emotion aside from the courtesy that would be extended even to a stranger. Rather than cry over his body, bid her husband goodbye, or tell him how much he was loved, the speaker's mother does something else entirely. She instead says the words that become the title of the poem and, ultimately, of the collection it appeared in.
I'll See You in the Morning
Notably, Walker's father was actually named Willie Lee. Thus, this is how the first sentence in the poem ends. The second sentence explains what the speaker has learned from this peculiar act. She states that her mother's words at her father's deathbed have allowed her to realize that the only way to repair the damage that people do to one another is by forgiving them.
The speaker obviously sees her mother's statement as a declaration of absolution for all of the hard times that no doubt accompany a marriage. By declaring that she will see her husband again, the speaker's mother references heaven or the afterlife or perhaps the Christian belief in the resurrection of the dead and the day of reckoning.
In this sense, the word "morning" is metaphorical, indicating a spiritual awakening rather than a physical one. Yet, the mother's statement can be seen practically. The next morning she will wake and prepare the body for burial. She will see her husband in their home and the faces of their children. This, however, is not the meaning that the speaker sees; instead, she sees the former.
This is demonstrated by the final three lines, in which the speaker indicates that she understands her mother's declaration of absolution to be one that allows an assurance for her father and for all who are forgiven to come back after all is said and done. This concluding observation does seem closest to the Christian belief in resurrection, though it skillfully avoids any overtly religious phrases.
Because of this, the possibility of return is not only spiritual but physical and emotional as well. The speaker states that her mother's words at her father's deathbed have allowed her to realize that the only way to repair the damage that people do to one another is by forgiving them.
Urban Dictionary: See Ya In The Mornin
To the speaker, this is an awe-inspiring act, one that she feels has wider implications for her father's return. This very Christian concept of forgiveness and redemption is related to the belief that all the people who have ever lived will be resurrected from their graves and judged when the world comes to an end. This may be the "morning" that the speaker's mother is referring to. In this sense, the word morning is metaphorical, indicating a spiritual awakening rather than a physical one.
The mother's forgiveness, in and of itself, is rather Christ-like, given that Christ is a religious symbol for, among other things, forgiveness, absolution, and redemption.
True forgiveness absolves the one who is forgiven, and they are thus redeemed. It is this redemption that allows the speaker's father to return. She indicates that she understands her mother's declaration of absolution to be one that allows an assurance for her father and for all who are forgiven to come back after all is said and done.
This is the result of redemption. Through redemption, the spirit of the speaker's father is allowed to return to the family, to be honored as a father and husband and not as a flawed man who hurt his loved ones. The speaker's mother redeems the father simply by continuing to accept, if not welcome, his presence in their lives, despite the changed nature of that presence. The speaker's mother has the last word at her husband's deathbed; therefore, it is easier for her to forgive him.
Regardless, the finality of death becomes the closing punctuation on their life together. Arguably, it would be difficult to forgive Willie Lee while he was still alive, especially given the near certainty that he would do something else that would require forgiveness. Thus, the finality of death allows for the lasting authority of the forgiveness that is subsequently granted.
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Acceptance is related to forgiveness in that one must fully accept the past and what has happened without anger, sadness, fear, or any other such emotion in order to truly forgive. Additionally the title of the poem, the essential statement that is made to Willie Lee's corpse, is one of supreme acceptance. The disconcertingly matter-of-fact tone of this statement is highly stressed in the poem.
The speaker's mother is described as talking to her dead husband in a congenial manner. This stress is derived from the noted absence of any strong emotion. Thus, this lack of strong emotion indicates acceptance, not only of Willie Lee's death, but also of his life. In another reading, one could argue that the opposite is the case, and that the title statement is an act of supreme denial. Rather than bid her dead husband goodbye, the speaker's mother says she will see him tomorrow.
This statement, when interpreted literally, would seem to indicate that the mother does not register the death of her husband. Nevertheless, the speaker's observations following her mother's farewell to her husband do not support this second interpretation. The term free verse is a catchall phrase for poetry that is not written in any sort of metrical form, which is the mindful arrangement of words according to their stressed and unstressed syllables, often in defined patterns.
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Other attributes typical to poems written in free verse are that they do not rhyme or do so in irregular patterns , have erratic line breaks, and are written in colloquial, or everyday, language. Free verse was extremely popular with American poets throughout the middle period of the twentieth century. Enjambment defines the way in which lines of poetry end and begin.
The arrangement of the line breaks affects the way the poem is read, both silently and aloud. This is because the line breaks make the eye pause as it scans the page. This minute pause, although barely discernible, affects the poem's rhythm. In some cases, this pause can also affect the meaning of a poem.
However, the subsequent two lines make it clear that this is not the case. If the line had read "I ran over the cat with my hands," this misunderstanding would not occur. In this manner enjambment allows poems to contain dual, even opposing meanings, thus evoking varying reactions and emotions in the reader over the course of a single poem. In "Good Night, Willie Lee, I'll See You in the Morning," this stylistic device is used to similar effect between lines 1 and 2, in which it is not clear whether the speaker's father is dead or not. The same effect occurs between lines 7 and 8, in which the title statement is made.