Date of Award

Spring 4-1-2006

Document Type


First Advisor

Donna Ryan

Second Advisor

Tonya Stremlau

Third Advisor

Paige Franklin


Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his essay Self-Reliance, defined complacency as the ultimate satisfaction of the self despite everything. It is to “rise above time’s rule” and “shun the battles of fate.” It is these battles of fate in the course of time’s rule that essentially predetermine how individuals work out their destinies by limiting or overriding human will. In following Emerson’s philosophy, I believe that we possess innate qualities that give us the potential to overcome such destiny. One can become a stone in the middle of a river, impervious to its flow. My grandmother, Alfreda, had brief tastes of this complacency and strived to understand it. She felt it could give her control over her destiny. This historical fiction biography juxtaposes her early free-spirited years of experimenting with her whims with her final years of struggling against restrictions imposed by her body. At old age, Alfreda found the need to go back into the past to try to uncover buried feelings of complacency to help her through her daily mental and physical humiliation. Because the city she lived in, Wilmington, Delaware, was, and still is, a microcosm of national social changes, her life will parallel its decline as the past becomes more burdensome, thereby making her experiences more universal. Through examining her milieus and her reactions to them, we will encounter historical and psychological inquiries weaved throughout the narrative. The end of the story switches from third-person to first-person perspective as I explain her death as well as her failure to fully realize her potential for complacency. The epilogue goes further in depth with the psychological scrutiny, mainly using Maslow’s theory of self-actualizing tendency (which I consider is at the level of consciousness necessary to attain complacency), and how Alfreda could have reached this level if society and her body had not interfered. This section also examines my methods of writing such as structure, symbolism, pace, and so on—and how it is used to further convey her search for complacency. It explores my experiences and insights gained from writing this story and how it can help me make this thesis improve to meet my goal of creating a literary piece of work. My experience in historical research will also be looked at in depth. But the main objective is this: I will unearth Alfreda’s past to discover this elusive potential and expose its veritable worth that could stand the test of time.

Included in

Fiction Commons



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