Orleans (235-324)

“I don’t take long saying good-bye ’cause it hurt. Like Daddy say: Run Fen, and don’t look back. So I don’t. Even when Baby Girl starts to fuss and be crying, I keep walking. Father John takes the chains off the doors, now that the sun be fixing to rise. Baby Girl wailing for all she worth. She ain’t used to Father John. She ain’t used nobody but me. Then I hear him start humming to her, a real old song he used to play when we been here long ago. He a good man. She gonna be all right with him. I shut the door behind me.” (Smith 303)


This shows the extreme bond  that Fen has with her daughter. She wants to keep her but she can’t because she has no tribe and no home. Her daughter is infected. This shows that heart-breaking decision that Fen has to go through as a mother to leave her daughter behind. A bond between a mother and child is very strong but she has no choice but to leave her baby behind. To her, leaving her child behind hurts a lot. There is a lot of crying by the child and all she wants to do is take care of her, but she has to choose to keep walking. In fact, Fen recalls on her own relationship with her father to help her through. She recalls her father saying to keep walking and not look back, and she uses this to help her heal the pain.

We can also see that Father John is the best person to take care of this child. It provides a little comfort for Fen. She hears him humming to her to calm her down. Even Fen starts to realize that leaving Baby Girl with Father John is the best thing to do and that “She gonna be all right with him” (Smith 303).

Finally, there is a significance about the fact that the sun rising and the fact that this scene occurs in the church. Both of these facts help show that there is a chance of rebirth for the child. The church is a very sacred place and by leaving her there, Fen gives her a pure start to her life. In addition, as she is leaving the sun is rising. This shows that dawn is now here and that the baby is  going to have her best chance of life in this church.

This scene is very important at illustrating Fen’s struggle to leave her baby behind, but also helps show the start of a new life that the child now has.


5 thoughts on “Orleans (235-324)

  1. This scene shows real growth in Fen’s character. The Fen we are exposed to in the beginning of the novel is focused on her survival, and even after adopting Baby Girl, needs to learn to care about her and develop maternal instinct. And when she develops that bond it is immediately tested to its limit. Given the ridiculous circumstances she finds herself in, the decision is obvious, but still no easier to make. Emotions that Fen is unused to are being tried, and her instinct is no longer all she can call upon. This is different, unnatural, but important. Important to her growth as a person and her ability to make decisions that benefit others.


  2. This passage is a very effective example of the growth that Fen has made towards being more human. After her tribe is destroyed we have seen that Fen’s behavior and thought process, developed when she had to survive in Orleans alone while she was a child, lacked empathy which is an essential characteristic of human interaction. She cared only for her survival. This very self centered outlook was dampened by the presence of Baby Girl. As Fen continued to care for the baby she began to consider leaving her less and began to go out of her way to ensure Baby Girl’s comfort. In this particular moment despite not wanting to leave the Baby Girl behind Fen believes that Father John was a better for Baby Girl’s wellbeing than herself. This scene is very demonstrative of Fen’s character distancing itself from being a sole survivor and becoming more humanlike.

    -Justin Wright


  3. I liked the attention that you drew toward the significance of the sun rising and a sense of rebirth in this scene. Earlier on, Father John asks Fen if she wants Enola baptized, and she says no because she’s afraid of the baby being infected by Orleans water. Baptism is a religious rebirth, a cleansing of sin to offer a new beginning. As Fen leaves Enola with Father John, with the sun rising outside, it is a distinct ending to this period of Fen’s and Enola’s lives together. Both of them are entering a new chapter, a new beginning. Fen believes that, even though Baby Girl is (supposedly) infected, she will have a better life with Father John. The baptismal motif continues when Fen submerges herself in the river and allows herself to be carried away. She also must begin anew. Her purpose in life (protecting Enola) is complete, and she must also be born again. And she offers herself to Orleans to determine what that new life should be, if at all.



  4. this is one of the more moving scenes in the book. The novel takes place over a few days, but as the audience, of course, it feels much longer. Baby Girl never knew her mother, Lydia, but she did get to know Fen- She saw Fen as her provider, as the maternal figure in her life. Throughout the course, we have engaged in several readings involving new beginnings coming from a disaster. Fen giving up baby girl is an inevitably painful moment in the story, but it is also a moment that many positives can come from. first of all, Fen no longer has to watch over this tiny baby. Secondly, this tiny baby isn’t going to be forced to eek out the same living that Fen has had to. This is an interesting and painful aspect, but also a common and recurring theme in the literature we’ve analyzed thus far.


  5. It’s significant that you call Baby Girl Fen’s daughter. While we all know they aren’t biologically related, this connection further supports the notion that the relationship between Fen and Baby Girl is closer to that of mother and daughter than anything else. What was originally an escort mission has been complicated by emotional involvement and readers are forced to feel the gravity of Fen’s internal conflicts. However, readers can rest easy as positive symbolic imagery surrounds Fen as she leaves the church. As we’ve discussed in previous classes, places of worship are safe spaces within the world of Orleans. Fen’s uncertain world can become more certain knowing that Baby Girl will be safe living with Father John. Now that Fen knows Baby Girl is safe, she can spend more time creating a more certain world for herself.


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