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Response to the Injustice System in Toni Morrison’s Sula

The language, the imagery, the themes, the characters, everything in Toni Morrison’s Sula, touches my heart. I want these people to win, to know goodness in their lives, to stop being small. I want the loud and long cry of rage which has no bottom or top with “circles and circles of sorrow” to end (Sula 174). Morrison embraces the political aspects of her work without apology and freely admits to desiring to emote a reader response. She maintains, “the best art is political and you ought to be able to make it unquestionably political and irrevocably beautiful at the same time” (“Rootedness” 345). Without question, Morrison is able to do both. In her analogy, comparing our place as readers of her writing to that of the congregation of the Black preacher, our response to her writing should be “to stand up and to weep and to cry and to accede or to change and to modify-to expand” on what is given (341). We are not to read passively but should feel compelled to respond. Morrison says there are things worth fighting for in this life, regardless of the outcome. The response to an injustice system needs to be rage and the claiming of true value.

Morrison chose certain years for the chapter headings to make a strong political statement. The final chapter, “1965” may relate to the Vietnam War. But “1965”, is not just about war. It is about how African Americans are treated by the governing systems even after the war. Starting with the introduction, the creation of the Bottom takes place after the end of slavery. Researching American history, I find that the Juneteenth celebration began a hundred years prior to this year marker. This is a celebration of the ending of slavery.

President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipa…

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… Chelsea House Publishers, 1990.

Dirks, Tim. Greatest Quotes From Great Film. 1996-2000. 14 Apr. 2015.

Furman, Jan. Toni Morrison’s Fiction. Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 1996.

Guynes, Kristian. “Toni Morrison: Sula’s Application of Literary Activism” January 2, 2013. Web. 3 May 2015.

Montgomery, Maxine Lavon. The Apocalypse in African-American Fiction. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1996.

Morrison, Toni. “Rootedness: The Ancestor as Foundation.” Black Women Writers (1950-1980): A Critical Evaluation. Ed. Mari Evans. New York: Anchor Books, 1984. 339-345.

Morrison, Toni. Sula. 1973. United States of America: Plume-Penguin Books, 1982.

Toni Morrison’s Sula – Black on White Violence Advocated in Sula

Black on White Violence Advocated in Sula

“And white women? They chase you [black men] to every corner of the earth, feel for you under every bed. I knew a white woman wouldn’t leave the house after six o’clock for fear one of you would snatch her.… They think rape soon’s they see you, and if they don’t get the rape they looking for, they scream it anyway just so the search won’t be in vain.” (Morrison)

This is how Sula, the heroine of Toni Morrison’s novel, refers to what she feels to be every white woman’s secret desire to be raped by a black man.

Morrison–who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1988–is one of the most assigned writers in college literature courses today, and her novel Sula (1973) is certainly the most popular of her works. Millions of college students have read this book, and it is safe to say that Morrison’s view of the word, especially the white world, makes a big impression on impressionable minds.

The plotless Sula is the story of a friendship between two black woman: Sula and Nel. The women’s relationship is played out against the backdrop of malicious, evil whites who insult and perpetrate other outrages against blacks in general and black women in particular.

For example, Nel’s mother is reprimanded by a white conductor for being in the white section of a southern train: “What was you doin’ in that coach yonder?…We don’t ‘low no mistakes on this train. Now git your butt on in there.” As Nel and her mother progress further south, even the public toilets marked COLORED WOMEN disappear: the women are forced to relieve themselves in “a field of high grass on the far side of the track,” and Nel eventually learns how to “fold leaves” expertly.

Later in the novel, Sula and Nel are t…

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… 11-13, 1997), white-studies guru Noel Ignatiev remarked: “Now that White Studies has become an academic industry, with its own dissertation mill, conference, publications, and no doubt soon its junior faculty, it is time for the abolitionists to declare where they stand in relation to it. Abolitionism is first of all a political project: the abolitionists study whiteness in order to abolish it….Whiteness is not merely oppressive and false, it is nothing but oppressive and false. As James Baldwin said, ‘So long as you think you are white, there is no hope for you.'”

Perhaps people like Morrison and Ignatiev feel that whiteness can be raped out of white women, given that offspring produced from such violent unions will not be white. This would certainly be a way for blacks “to survive” the “evil” that is white people, as Morrison describes them.

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