Gayl Jones

Corregidora

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  • Features 5 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a college professor with a PhD in English
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Corregidora Summary & Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 29-page guide for “Corregidora” by Gayl Jones includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 5 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Gender Roles and Sexism and The Impact of Racism on Society and the Individual.

Plot Summary

Corregidora is the first novel by Gayl Jones. It was originally published in 1975 and is considered a work of the Black Arts Movement (BAM), which was active in the 1960s and 70s.

The book tells the story of Ursa Corregidora, a mixed, middle-aged songstress trying to make her way at the turn of the 1950s. Her overprotective husband, Mutt, opens the book by causing a ruckus at one of her shows. He is thrown out of Happy’s, the bar Ursa works at, only to wait outside and attack Ursa as she is leaving. The resulting injuries leave Ursa hospitalized and permanently infertile.

In the hospital, Ursa refuses to acknowledge a persistent Mutt, but entertains visits from her boss, Tadpole. Tadpole helps aid her recovery and has her move in with him once she’s released. While Tadpole is friendly and helpful—he listens to Ursa talk about her family’s dark past as sex slaves as well as administers her medicine—Ursa knows that the relationship between them is unequal and decides to take the neighborhood hairdresser’s advice and stay with the hairdresser, Cat, instead. Ursa moves into Cat’s, only to be met by a pesky female teen, Jeffey, whom Cat is also caring for. Ursa attempts to be nice to the young Jeffey, but Jeffey threatens her and then tries to touch Ursa in a sexual manner while Ursa is sleeping. Ursa makes a scene when she realizes what’s happening, and Cat comes in to remove Jeffey, saying that she had warned Ursa that Jeffey should sleep on the floor. Later on, Ursa overhears an altercation between Jeffey and Cat that leads Ursa to believe that Cat is not as innocent as she pretends to be. Ursa sneaks out from Cat’s, shows up on Tadpole’s doorstep and then having sex with him.

Shortly after moving back in with Tadpole, Tadpole proposes to Ursa and she accepts. Ursa also slowly but surely starts going back to work at Happy’s. As their marriage begins to age, the sex between Tadpole and Ursa grows more and more awkward. Due to her injuries, she can’t feel or respond much. Eventually, Tadpole takes this personally and storms out on her. Ursa then decides to take on another job at a different bar called the Spider. She agrees to go back and forth between Happy’s and the Spider; Tadpole, although unhappy, acquiesces. In her absence, Tadpole hires a teen named Vivian. Vivian quickly changes from songstress into mistress, and Ursa walks in on Vivian and Tadpole. Tadpole blames Ursa for his actions and Ursa leaves him, returning to live at the hotel she had originally lived at with Mutt.

Looking for answers, Ursa decides to visit her mother, who still resides in their hometown of Bracktown. Ursa returns to find her mother living in the same home she grew up in, along with Great Gram and Grandmama, and continuing to refuse all possible romantic attachments. Ursa asks about her father and her mom explains his abusive past and tells Ursa that the only time she went to visit him during Ursa’s lifetime, he beat Ursa’s mother up. Ursa’s mom also further refines the story of Great Gram and Grandmama’s lives as Old Man Corregidora’s slaves and prostitutes. Ursa leaves that same afternoon, full of introspection.

The story picks up twenty years later with Ursa still working at the Spider, where she is being harassed by a drunk audience member. She reflects on the past two decades in which she has kept to herself and not allowed any intimacy, just work. She recounts meeting Jeffey as an adult. Jeffey supplies her with news of Cat’s fate, but turns out to ultimately be the same devious person. Ursa then talks about all the people she has avoided over the years.

She then receives an unexpected visit from a former colleague at Happy’s, who tells her Mutt is looking for her again. As predicted, he arrives at the Spider, hoping Ursa will want to get back together. She quickly agrees, and they return to their former lodgings.

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