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A Comparison of Christian Symbols in Song of Solomon, Sula, and Beloved

Although religion does not exist as a central theme in Toni Morrison’s work, it does set premise for a richly intertwined web of symbolism. Morrison’s novels focus on the lives of characters acting in the present day or recent past. For African Americans, events of the past are a crucial facet of culture as they seek to remember their history, the most influential of these events reaching far back into the years of slavery. Historians argue that for incoming slaves, Christianity offered a religious ground for the displaced individual, a soil in which to replant the symbols of their native spirituality. In interviews and articles regarding her works, Morrison seems to take on a tone of rejection towards the idea that the civilization of blacks was beneficial. However, through her use of blatant parallels to the Bible and obvious references to Christian doctrine, it is easy to see how a reader might interpret Morrison’s stance as one of affirmation of at least the Christianizing aspect of civilization.

Because of the broadness of Morrison’s mix in usage of Christian symbols and African American folklore, it is important to define the two facets of faith itself: religion and spirituality. Religious structure is built upon dogma, rituals, history, and tradition; spirituality exists as the “unchanging foundation” to that religious structure. Carolyn Mitchell explains both concepts most clearly in her essay titled, “Biblical Revisions in Beloved:” “Religion is the worship of God; spirit is God; spirituality is the individual manifestation of God in everyday life and experience. Spirituality creates an authentic relationship to one’s own life, calling one to be wholly present in and accountable for this life” (29). However, her defin…

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…er, ever near me, And the sacred past unfold” (Wright). The girls from childhood were blessings for each other, the escape from outside pressures that each needed. These “precious memories” flood Nel after Sula’s death when she reflects on her early years with Sula: ” ‘We was girls together,’ she said as though explaining something” (174). The strength of the bond between Nel and Sula, as well as their failure to recognize the importance of each other before it is too, late follows through to the last page of the book. Nel is walking down a road alone; as she talks to herself crying for Sula, the sacred past unfolds before her (as evident through the authors use of the word “girl”) and her epiphany serves as the resolution of the book: “All that time, all that time, I thought I was missing Jude . . . . O Lord, Sula . . . . girl, girl, girlgirlgirl” (174).

Sophocles’ Antigone – Antigone Must Challenge Creon

Antigone Must Challenge Creon in Antigone

In his “Funeral Oration” Pericles, Athens’s leader in their war with other city-states, rallies the patriotism of his people by reminding them of the things they value. He encourages a sense of duty to Athens even to the point of self-sacrifice. He glorifies the free and democratic Athenian way of life and extravagantly praises those willing to die for it. In Antigone, Creon, Thebes’s leader in their recent civil war, also must rally the patriotism of his people. While he, too, praises the loyalty of his people, he does two other things to rally the citizens: he emphasizes his own qualifications for leadership, and he reminds them what happens to traitors.

Creon speaks to his people at the beginning of Antigone because he is now the only ruler of Thebes, and he wants them to be loyal to him. He knows there’s a chance they might not have faith in him because in Oedipus the King he claimed to be content to leave the active leadership to others. Also, he’s not next in line to be the king after Laius, the late, beloved king. Even more important is the fact that Laius’s grandchildren, Oedipus’s sons Eteocles and Polynices, ended up on opposite sides of a war over Thebes. Some Thebans were probably loyal to Eteocles, but others may have been sympathetic to Polynices, who tried to take the throne away from his brother. Now Creon, the new leader, will have the best chance for success if he gets the people to forget about Oedipus and the terrible time of his rule, and about Oedipus’s sons and the rebellion that divided their country. Although he does praise the Thebans for respecting the royal house of Laius, saying, “your loyalty was unshakable” (line 187), he wants them to reali…

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…ells trouble for the city’s future and for his own success. Sometimes he sounds harsher and more threatening than Pericles did, but the problem of unifying people after a war between brothers is more difficult than unifying people to fight outsiders (which is what Pericles had to do). After all, Pericles can praise all the Athenians who died for their city’s sake in the Peloponnesian War, but Creon can’t praise all the Thebans who died in this battle. His idea for unifying Theban citizens behind him is to focus attention on himself as an example of everything they admire, and to show them the terrible consequences for disloyalty. Given the situation, I see this as an admirable goal, but I can also see why it’s inevitable that Antigone, the strong-minded daughter of Oedipus and the sister of Polynices, will see Creon as arrogant and will challenge his rule.

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