Toni Morison Essays, Book Reports, Term Papers

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toni morison Toni Morrison: The bluest eye and Sula Essay submitted by Eric Penrod African- American folklore is arguably the basis for most African- American literature. In a country where as late as the 1860's there were laws prohibiting the teaching of slaves, it was necessary for the oral tradition to carry the values the group considered significant. Transition by the word of mouth took the place of pamphlets, poems, and novels. Themes such as the quest for freedom, the nature of evil, and the powerful verses the powerless became the themes of African- American literature. In a book called Fiction and Folklore: the novels of Toni Morrision author Trudier Harris explains that "Early folk beliefs were so powerful a force in the lives of slaves that their masters sought to co-opt that power. Slave masters used such beliefs in an attempt to control the behavior of their slaves"(Harris 2). Masters would place little black coffins outside the cabins of the slaves in a effort to restrain their movements at night; they perpetuated ghost lore and created tales of horrible supernatural animals wondering the outsides of the plantation in order to frighten slaves from escape or trans-plantation visits. Tales of slaves running to the north became legendary. Oral tales of escapes and long journeys north through dangerous terrain were very common among every slave on every plantation. Many of these tales seem to be similar to the universal tales and myths like The Odyssey or Gilgemish. Slaves on every plantation were telling tales that would later be the groundwork for African-American literature. African- American folklore has since been taken to new levels and forms. Writers have adopted these themes and have fit them into contemporary times. Most recently author Toni Morrison has taken the African- American folklore themes and adapted them to fictional literature in her novels. Morrison comments on her use of the African-American oral tradition in an interview with Jane Bakerman. "The ability to be both print and oral literature; to combine those aspects so that the stories can be read in silence, of course, but one should be able to hear them as well. To make a story appear oral, meandering, effortless, spoken. To have the reader work with the author in construction of the book- is what's important"(Bakerman 122).In all of Morrison's novels it is easy to see her use of African- American folklore along with traditional fiction. In the novels The Bluest Eye and Sula, Morrison creates settings and characters that produce an aura of unreality, that which is directly borrowed from African- American folklore. With the aura of unreality in Morrison's characters and settings, her plots scream with real life themes such as murder, war, poverty, sexual abuse, and racism. In The Bluest Eye and Sula, Morrison combines fiction and folklore to create two chilling stories about black communities struggling to define themselves. The Bluest Eye is not just a story about young impressionable black girls in the Midwest; it is also the story of African- American folk culture in process. The character Claudia MacTeer is the narrator for this folk tale. Claudia gives a voice to Pecola Breedlove's story and to the community. The story is shaped from the beginning with the expectation of reader involvement and with the presumption of an audience. The brief preface that begins "Quiet as it's kept, there were no marigolds in the fall of 1941", serves to establish Claudia as the communal rehearser of tragedy. Her first person narration establishes a close relationship between herself and the reader. Like many of Morrison's novels, The Bluest Eye shows the heroic and failed efforts of a struggling black community. With the use of a first person narrator, Morrison is able to make the story seem oral and it also requires the reader to participate with her in the making of the story. Morrison has commented "My writing expects, demands participatory reading, and that I think is what literature is supposed to do. It's not just about telling the story; it's about involving the reader. The reader supplies the emotions. The reader supplies even some of the color, some of the sound. My language has to have holes and spaces so the reader can come into it"(Harris 17). This style of writing that Morrison embraces is directly influenced by the African- American folklore tradition. The Bluest eye is a story that shows on going problems that effect the black race. The story is about cultural beliefs, which are the essence of folkloristic transmission. Early narratives and tales in African- American folklore were about discrepancies in wealth and social position between blacks and whites. This story transmits patterns and problems the have a negative impact on the black race. The story not only shows these patterns and problems but also shows how they go unresolved because the black race in the time of this book just accepted this way of life. The major issue in this book is the idea of ugliness. The belief that black was not valuable or beautiful was one of the cultural hindrances to black people throughout their history in America. Morrison emphasizes that the entire Beedlove family believes that they are ugly. Without any visible markers to show that belief, they nonetheless act and react as if it were so. Having inherited the myth of unworthiness, the Breedloves can only live the outlined saga to its expected conclusion. Because Pecola believed she was ugly, she never had any type of self- esteem or confidence. Then being raped by her father, Cholly Breedlove, Pecola was destined to go insane. In a conversation with Robert Stepto, Morrison comments on her creation of Pecola. "Well, In The Bluest Eye, I try to show a little girl as a total and complete victim of whatever was around her"(Stepto 17). With Claudia giving the background to Cholly's hard life and showing the harsh reality of Pecola's insanity, this oral tale has a certain darkness to it that shows these patterns that have plagued the black race in America. Pecola's basic wish for blue eyes ties her to all believers in fairy tales and other magical realms. Pecola is just like Cinderella in the sense that she wants to be something different than what she is naturally. Just like Sleeping beauty, the ugly duckling, and Cinderella The Bluest Eye has a notion of fantasy in it. Because Pecola's life is doomed in a sense, she must resort to fantasy in her own mind. Unlike Cinderella and all the other fairy tales this fantasy that Morrison brings to the page is loaded with the harsh realities of African-American life. Claudia not only tells the story but tries to effect Pecola's fate through her own belief in the power of magic to transform present conditions. Claudia and Frieda attempt to influence Pecola's future by planting the marigolds correctly. They hope, as Pecola does with the offering to the dog, to bring a sort of sympathetic magic that will make Pecola's future more healthy. Unlike most fairy tales, The

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The Bluest Eye2 The Bluest Eye - A Reality of Presence In The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison shows that anger is healthy and that it is not something to be feared; those who are not able to get angry are the ones who suffer the most. She criticizes Cholly, Polly, Claudia, Soaphead Church, the Mobile Girls, and Pecola because these blacks in her story wrongly place their anger on themselves, their own race, their family, or even God, instead of being angry at those they should have been angry at: whi
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