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Essay on Toni Morrison and Beloved

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Toni Morrison was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her novel Beloved, a novel whose popularity and worth earned her the Nobel Prize in literature the first ever awarded to a black female author.  Born in the small town of Larain, Ohio, in 1931, to George and Ramah Willis Wofford, Morrison's birth name is Chloe Anthony Wofford (Gates and Appiah  ix).  Morrison describes the actions of her central character in Beloved, as:  the ultimate love of a mother; the outrageous claim of a slave.  In this statement we find an expression of the general themes of Morrison's mainly naturalistic works.  One of these is the burden of the past or history (i.e. slavery and being black in a predominantly white controlled society).  Another is the effect on the individual and society from distinctions of race, gender and class.  A further theme still is the power of love, be it positive or negative it is a powerful transforming presence in her characters and novels, one through which many find redemption and freedom.

Morrison studied humanities at Howard and Cornell Universities.  She pursued an academic career at Texas Southern University and Yale.  She has had a chair at Princeton University since 1989.  During these years she has also worked as an editor at Random House, a literary critic, and she has written and given many lectures focusing on African-American literature.  Morrison's maternal and paternal influences greatly affected her outlook on life and this influence is palpable in her works and their characters and themes.  From her father she learned to distrust whites and that she merited self-worth despite the white opinion of those of the black race "She readily admits:  My father was a racist.  As a child in ...


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...We also see that despite who is crushed or saved, there are often many victims of such existence phenomena who never have a chance to even try "Down by the stream in back of 124 her footprints come and go, come and go...By and by all trace is gone, and what is forgotten is not only the footprints but the water too and what it is down there.  The rest is weather.  Not the breath of the disremembered and unaccounted for, but wind in the eaves, or spring ice thawing too quickly.  Just weather.  Certainly no clamor for a kiss.  Beloved" (Morrison  275).

Works Cited:

Gates, Henry Louis and Appiah, K. A.  (eds.).  Toni Morrison:  Critical Perspectives Past and Present.  New York, Amistad, 1993.

Morrison, Toni.  Beloved.  New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1987.

Samuels, Wilfred D. and Hudson, Clenora Weems.  Toni Morrison.  Boston, Twayne Publishers, 1990.


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