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Toni Morrison and Historical Memory

Most of literature written by American minority authors is pedagogic, not toward the dominant culture, but for the minority cultures of which they are members. These authors realize that the dominant culture has misrepresented minority history, and it is the minority writers’ burden to undertake the challenge of setting the record straight to strengthen and heal their own cultures. Unfortunately, many minorities are ambivalent because they vacillate between assimilation (thereby losing their separateness and cultural uniqueness) and segregation from the dominant culture. To decide whether to assimilate, it is essential for minorities to understand themselves as individuals and as a race. Mainstream United States history has dealt with the past of the dominant culture forgetting about equally important minority history. We cannot convey true American history without including and understanding minority cultures in the United States, but minority history has to first be written. National amnesia of minority history cannot be tolerated. Toni Morrison is a minority writer has risen to the challenge of preventing national amnesia through educating African-Americans by remembering their past and rewriting their history. In her trilogy, Beloved, Jazz and Paradise, and in her other works, Morrison has succeeded in creating literature for African-Americans that enables them to remember their history from slavery to the present.

Toni Morrison has been called America’s national author and is often compared with great dominant culture authors such as William Faulkner. Morrison’s fiction is valued not only for its entertainment, but through her works, she has presented African-Americans a literature in which their own heritage and history a…

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Morrison, Toni. Paradise. New York: Penguin Putnam, Inc. 1997.

Morrison, Toni. Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination. Cambridge. Harvard University Press, 1992.

Morrison, Toni, Song of Solomon. New York: Penguin Books USA, Inc., 1977.

Reyes, Angelita. Memory, Narrative, and Identity: New Essays in Ethnic American Literatures. Carnival as an Archaeological Site for Memory. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1994, 179-197.

Singh, Amritjit, Joseph T. Skerretk Jr., and Robert e. Hogan. Memory, Narrative, and Identity: New Essays in Ethnic American Literatures. Introduction. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1994.

Tally, Justine. Paradise Reconsidered Toni Morrison’s (Hi)stories and Truths. Hamburg: Lit Verlag, 1999.

Comparing Consistency in Beloved, The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon and Tar Baby comparison compare contrast essays

Consistency of Vision in Beloved, The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon and Tar Baby Morrison’s novels, Beloved, The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon and Tar Baby, reveal a unity and a consistency in her vision of the human condition. One particular preoccupation is with the effect of the community on the individual’s achievement and retention of an integrated acceptable self. In treating this subject she draws recurrently on myth and legend for story pattern and characters, returning repeatedly to the theory of quest as a motivating and organizing device. The impact of the community on the individual’s quest for self is one of the particular problems of Black women, and the laughter and pain which characterise the survival struggle of Black Americans. (Thus Sethe is destroyed by her memories and her isolation with the ghost of Beloved (haunted by slavery), until the community intervenes and saves her.) There are a number of similar themes which pervade the novels: in Song of Solomon, Milkman Dead’s spiritual quest is part of an actual journey during which he must confront his past and his origins. (Compare with Paul D.’s need to confront his past, and Sethe’s.) Finally he experiences a rebirth of the self rather than a terminal isolation in madness or death (as Sethe is reunited with Paul D. and is liberated from the horrors of her past.) (Incidentally, Milkman gets his name from the fact that his mother nursed him late into boyhood, from an emotional dependence, which points to the emblematic ‘stealing of milk’ from which Sethe suffers… and her desire and pride that she is able to keep her milk for her children.) See also, Therese, in Tar Baby, whose ‘magic breasts’ continue forever to give life-sustaining milk, who actively guides ‘Son’.

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