Paule Marshall uses a West African cosmology in Praisesong for the Widow (1983) to color the physical and spiritual journey of the protagonist Avatara “Avey” Johnson. This cosmology is visible through the presence of African orishas (deities). Though Marshall references other orishas in the novel, including Legba, Erzulie, Yemoja, and Oya, she underscores Ogun by utilizing symbolism related to him throughout the novel. Extending the critical discourse on Praisesong, this article elucidates Ogun’s appearances by examining Marshall’s skillful employment of Ogun symbolism within Avey’s journey. This article further argues that in addition to invoking Ogun because of his association with deeds of “destruction and creation,” Marshall uses Ogun because he is a totemic figure of conquering transitions, and Avey is in a state of transition from destruction to recreation over the course of the novel.


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pp. 161-183
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