Iona and a “Remaking of Home”

In “Exiled at Home,” one of the things that Cucinella and Curry discuss is Iona’s chosen exile, which is something I thought about in relation to question #5 about the resolution of Daughters of the Dust. Iona’s choice to leave with St. Julian Last Child is really interesting to me because throughout the film the characters generally discuss two options: staying at home on the island and maintaining the connection to the family’s ancestors, history, and culture, or leaving for the mainland in pursuit of what some characters deem a better, more modern life. While Iona doesn’t play a large role in most of the movie, her decision at the end presents a separate third option outside of what the family argues about throughout the whole film. Cucinella and Curry say that this decision “involves a remaking of home,” with Iona rejecting both other options in favor of creating a new life with St. Julian Last Child (215).

I think that the ending does provide some resolution in the sense that you get to see the characters make their final decisions on whether to stay or go, but Iona’s self-exile shakes things up and left me wondering what long term impact her choice has on her as well as her mother and the rest of the group going to the mainland. I also found it notable that while Haagar references the meaning of Iona’s name, calling out “I own her,” Iona’s choice allows her to chart her own future independent of the others. In the end, she is owned neither by her mother and her goal of making her daughters “decent somebodies” on the mainland, or by the traditions Nana is trying to uphold. She instead makes a decision outside of the options the other characters’ discuss, introducing a third possibility for how members of the family can choose to live.

2 thoughts on “Iona and a “Remaking of Home”

  1. Yes, I do believe Iona’s name was purposeful and meshed well with her story arc. It would have felt unsatisfying if she were just to go away with her mother, especially after introducing St. Julian.

  2. Hannah this is a great exploration of Iona’s significance in the film. The last scene with Iona and St. Julian riding off together is always dissatisfying to me because it does not fit either of the choices that you mentioned–remaining with family on the island or going off to the mainland–but I wonder how different it would be if the film also gave us a look into St. Julian’s family dynamics and culture. Obviously he was closely connected to the island and strongly against leaving, even if it meant leaving with Iona, but I think it would be interesting to see more about his Native community on the island and how much they interacted with the Peazants & Gullah people.

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