Summary-Literary Analysis of Mommy, What Does Nigger Mean by Gloria Naylor

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In “Mommy, What Does Nigger Mean?”, author Gloria Naylor explains throughout her piece that reality shapes language and language can shape reality. Naylor explains this, “chicken or the egg dispute” (Naylor 1) through her experiences with the word nigger. Gloria explains how she starts on one side of reality and shaping her language, then comes to another understanding from the boy in her third grade class. Language can be how words are used, what their meaning is and the purpose behind that selection of words. Reality is everyday life and experiences. When in third grade Naylor encounters nigger as a racial derogatory when a boy said “nigger” to her while receiving graded tests back. To Gloria it was anything but a racial put down since …show more content…

An instance of her exemplification is by calling someone a, "trifling nigger" (Naylor 2) is to say that person has a bad reputation of being drunk, foul or rude. Calling another person that name may be demeaning to their reputation but in no way does it discriminate against them racially. A second exemplifying definition is the possessive adjective use by a woman to her boyfriend or husband. When that woman calls her man “my nigger” (Naylor 2) it means a term of endearment or a compliment. By defining a word specifically one can alter the meaning and the reality of that word through language while excluding prejudice.
Although exemplification plays a big role in proving Naylor's ideas, refutation backs up the examples and adds more content. Through instances of refutation she proves a great deal of supportive information to establish her ideas effectiveness by softening opposing opinions. Gloria shows refutation by exemplification of definitions that have no racial prejudice and how those accepted definitions from her family modeled her language. Another example of a definition used in the family is when talking about approval of a trait. In the passage the speaker says, "I'm telling you, that nigger pulled in $6,000 of overtime last year." (Naylor 2). The trait being approved of here would be drive or determination resulting in success. The second piece of negation is that "the people in people in

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