Zusammenfassung Black Madonna
When the short story starts the environment where the parkers live is described very detailed. Even road and house number are mentioned as well as that they live in the 5th floor.
The actual plot sets in, when Lou Parker invites two black Jamaicans, who work with Raymond, to her house. Oxford St. John and Henry Price often step by in the next time and Lou shows the two Jamaicans to all the friends of her and Raymond, pretending what a good example of integration and tolerance they are.
However Lou gets annoyed by the presence of Oxford who is too often at their flat to her taste. So she prays to the new statue in the town church that Oxford St. John leaves and she is successful. Soon after her prayer Oxford gets a job offer in another town and leaves.
Convinced from the success of the first time Lou goes a second time to the Black Madonna. This time she prays for getting pregnant because she wants a baby.
And again the Black Madonna is successful. Lou gets pregnant and gets a baby. But Lou and Raymond are very shocked when realizing that their baby has a black skin color.
After a longer discussion between both of them they decide to give the baby up and to move to London. They pretend to do this because too much of their neighbors would suggest that Lou had slept with one of the Jamaicans (what isn’t true: the baby is black because of distanced relatives of the Parkers) but in fact they do so because they can’t accept this racial difference.
The story is set in a town called Whitney Clay. A city which is partly catholic and whose population increased in the last few years. Especially black people out of the different colonies went to Whitney Clay to get an impression of the colonizers. The setting is furthermore quiet concrete; we exactly know where they live. It’s even said that our protagonists live in the 5th floor in flat 22 in Manders Road. In the city it is usual to have children and the Catholics represent a minority in the town.
The Author: Muriel Spark
Muriel Spark was born in 1918 in Edinburgh and had a Jewish father and a Protestant mother. She started writing early and was very successful with poetry in the schools magazine.
Later she married Sydney Spark, a teacher from Southern Rhodesia, and moved there and lived there for quite a long time even though the marriage caused a horrible life for the author. Because of this experiences in Zimbabwe Muriel Spark wrote several poems and short stories in which she deals with them.
With 40 years she converted to Catholicism (so neither Protestant nor Jewish as her parents) but she always criticized the narrow views of lot of devout Catholics.
In her life she lived as well in Rome and New York and she was the publisher of several successful poetry magazines.
The Black Madonna
The Black Madonna comes from religious believers and describes pictures and statues of the holy Maria where she always has a black face (or is completely black colored).
Because those statues used to be quite seldom there was a huge admiration of those Madonna pictures and the religious community awarded them with special abilities.
The most importance gains the Black Madonna for sure in the Marian devotion (=Marienverehrung) and in Christianity.
Racism in England
Even in the 1980s and the 1980s there was an “anti-black-attitude” in England. For sure not any more that hard that it wasn’t allowed for other-colored people to drive in the same bus (like in the United States) but that far that some separate extremist groups even burn down a Mosque in Greenwich and that the newspaper don’t write a report about this because racism is “nothing new”.
Other events were the murder of the child of a Muslim woman, Molotov cocktails in Islamic flats and the killing of a foreign Taxi driver (comparable to the subway murders in Germany!) – so racism was still a topic back then in England.
Alone in 1986 there were 70000 cases of racist motivated violence in England and that’s a very big number.
In the beginning Lou and Raymond always pretend to be devout and good Catholics and they seem to accept the two Jamaicans. But actually the two use the foreign workers to show their friends and relatives how friendly and progressive they’re concerning narrow racist views. You realize this when Lou gets annoyed by one of them and wants to get rid of him because he has served his purpose (=er hat seinen Zweck erfüllt).
So the acceptance is only played and pretended and not real! This is directly shown in the end when the two get the baby and are completely shocked and discuss for quite a while.
You see that Muriel Spark criticizes the behavior of Lou and Raymond towards Oxford St. John and Henry Price in the short story and shows this with the higher power of the Black Madonna who is shocking the couple with a black baby and with the aversion you feel against Lou (and maybe as well Raymond) when you read the short story.
Links to other short stories