Toni Morrison, in her work, Rootedness: The Ancestor as Foundation, voices her opinion about the responsibility of the artist and proclaims that art should be political. I would like to examine Grace Paley and Phillip Roth’s short stories and Toni Morrison’s novel, The Bluest Eye. Each of these works can be considered political, and I believe they fit Morrison’s idea of what literary fiction should be.
In both Paley and Roth’s work, strongly political themes emerge. Paley’s short story, “Faith in a Tree”, deals with the Vietnam war and Roth’s short story, “Conversion of the Jews”, treats religious and moral questions in a public setting. Neither Paley nor Roth state that art must be political, or that it is the responsibility of the artist to create political work. Their work as illustrated in the short stories above, however, is decidedly political in nature as is Morrison’s work as exemplified in her novel, The Bluest Eye.
Morrison’s definition of the responsibility of an artist is limiting in terms of what sort of art is good and worthwhile.
” ‘I am not interested in indulging myself in some private,
closed exercise of my imagination that fulfils only the
obligation of my personal dreams–which is to say yes, the
work must be political….It seems to me that the best art
is political and you ought to be able to make it unquestionably
political and irrevocably beautiful at the same time.’ ”
(Rootedness: The Ancestor as Foundation)
Here, Morrison not only states that political art is better than art which is simply beautiful, but also implies that it is the responsibility of the artist to create art whic…
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…rison’s definition of art say about more speculative works, such as As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner, or J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey? These works don’t directly address any major political themes, so they are automatic lesser on the Morrison scale simply because they don’t defend an ideal which isn’t accepted by a majority of the public.
Although Morrison’s, The Bluest Eye, was an incredible book in many respects, I must ultimately disagree strongly with her views on what art should be and the responsibility of the artist. To adopt Morrison’s ideals would be to disvalue entire artistic movements and many important works and artists, without regard to their other merits.
Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye, New York, Penguin Books Ltd, 1994.
Paley, Grace. Enormous Changes at the Last Minute, USA, Harper C.Collins Canada Ltd. 1995.
The Many Themes of William Gibson’s Neuromancer
William Gibson’s Neuromancer is a complex story that deals with the future computer technology and the impact on the lives of the world citizens. There are themes of love, betrayal, trust, and forbidden knowledge within each of the story lines of the book. These story lines give a human quality to a world that is described as being controlled by computers and technology. Also throughout the book Gibson brings in the ethical and moral values of the debate over what cost humanity takes as technology advances. In the early 1900s when Henry Ford first used the automatic conveyor belt it came at the cost of hiring manual labor to do the job. The usage of the conveyor belt, however, redefined the factory assembly line. As with the previous example, technology comes with the advancement of a culture, but with those advancements come the decline of some part of the human aspect of the previous way of life. Sometimes this advancement is for the better and aids the next generation do more for their culture as well as the world, but there are those advancements that degrade humanity and cause more harm than good for the rest of society. Gibson deals with this debate and brings it into the modern era with creation of the Internet and World Wide Web in the late 1980s. Case as well as the other characters were faced with the underlying plot of if what they were doing for Wintermute was the right thing to do, and how would it effect the rest of society.
The underlying tension throughout the entire novel is the fear of who do you trust and who will betray me next. In the opening of the novel Case is trying to figure out why a drug lord is looking for him and what will the drug leader do with him. Case received a drug shipment from Wage, the drug lord, and has not paid Wage for the drugs. He goes to one of his friends, Julius Deane, to figure out what to do and what Wage is trying to do to Case, and later in the novel Deane becomes a leader in the mission to sabotage Tessier-Ashpool. There is an incident between Case and Jules as the story develops where Jules has been taken over by Wintermute, and revels to Case that he in fact killed Linda Lee, Case’s love.