This article considers Alice Walker's novel By the Light of My Father's Smile in the light of the theories of French feminist Luce Irigaray. It concentrates particularly on the redefinition of love through the creation of a maternal genealogy. It explores how the severe punishment of one of the daughters, as a result of her love affair with a young Indian boy, results in the deep scarring of all the family for the rest of their lives. Interpreting this traumatic event as a metaphorical Oedipal break from the mother, this discussion aims to show the ways in which both the novelist and the theoretician explore the possibility of redefining the term ‘love’ through the mother-daughter relationship.

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