‘Mama Gone’ by Jane Yolen: Short Story Analysis
This short story according to me can stand as a testimonial that, not all vampire stories are the same. This story by Jane Yolen has brought out emotions and feelings that are beyond the life in the grave or the life of the walking dead. The story has in fact spoken about the everlasting relationship between a mother and a child, as well as the everlasting tale of the vampire. The narrative tries to ask the reader of vampire fiction a question, whether a mother who has changed into a vampire can forget about everything, including her children? The author also tries to question the idea of whether being a vampire is more powerful than being a loving mother. In the end however, it is certainly proven that a mother’s feelings for her children always triumphs in the end.
Emotions are a main ingredient in this story, each and every character in this story emotes. However, the emotions that are prevailing in the story are not that of hate, fear, horror, terror, etc. that one would normally associate with vampire stories. In fact, the emotions expressed in the narrative are that of grief, pity, sorrow, and of course love. In the story on the death of ‘mama’ the mother of the narrator, the only emotions that are expressed are the emotions of grief and sorrow typical and normal of anyone who loses their wife or their mother. However, these emotions were expressed even though it was known that the woman who died was from a family lineage of vampires.
After the mother dies during child birth, the second child Bubba cries out his emotions in his simple babble ‘Mama Gone’ while the husband is in the depths of sorrow on seeing the blood-stained bed.
Although the husband of the woman is advised to take the necessary precautions in the grave by cutting off the woman’s hands and feet and filling her mouth with garlic, the husband flatly refuses. However, superstition turns to reality when the woman leaves her grave and tries to get into her own home first to prey upon her own family. She is however prevented from doing so by the narrator who has already smeared the window panes with garlic and who holds up a Christian cross in front of her mother. The woman later kills an infant in the crib after which the husband realizes his mistake.
The narrator of the story was the eldest of the mother’s children called Mandy Jane. She seems also to be not only more in control of her emotions than her father but also is the only person who has complete faith and trust in the love her mother had for her. It is she who risks the night to remind her vampire mother about all the good times they have had as a family. Mandy Jane’s recalling of old memories aloud to the mother, makes the mother remember the goodness in her that cleanses away the stigma of the walking dead.
This story reeks not with the stench of blood but with the fragrance of love which, as Jane Yolen has put it, has conquered even the impenetrable barrier of the vampire. One cannot help but get a choke in one’s throat when the poor Mandy Jane tries to sing a lullaby to her vampire mother while she lies face down in her grave of red clay so that the vampire may not arise and terrorize the surrounding area. The love of Mandy Jane overpowered her fear of the evil forces present in her undead mother.
Many references to the Bible are made in the narrative speaking about what the ‘Good Book’ feels about death. One important line which the father narrates to Mandy Jane from the Bible after he realizes that he needs to drive a stake into his undead wife is a quotation from Ecclesiastes 9:5: ‘For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything’. However, this is not the complete line of Ecclesiastes 9:5, the full quotation is:
For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.
This line was proven by Mandy Jane to be false, as in the end she made her mother REMEMBER LOVE and therefore saved her mother from eternal damnation just the way, the love of the Messiah Jesus Christ saves all the living and the ‘dead’ who believe in him. In the bargain, Jane Yolen gives the reader a moral to comprehend in her narrative ‘Mama Gone’.
In the last part of the short story, the mother who is now free from her slavery to blood tells her daughter that she is ‘here and gone’ which can be interpreted as that she has now come to her senses but will soon leave her child and this world and enter her heavenly realm.
Jane Yolen with this vampire story which is written in a simple narrative style has brought out a wonderful moral.
Copyright ©2013 Fiza Pathan