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Folklore, Women's Issues, and Morals in Toni Morrison's Sula Essay

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The Themes of Folklore, Women's Issues, and Morals in Sula

 
Toni Morrison has asserted that she likes to write the kind of books that she would like to read (Harris 52). By this we can assume she favors black folklore, women's issues, and discussions of accepted moral standards. These are some major themes in Sula.

Folktales are a type of oral prose that is passed from one person to another. Listeners may chose to add or subtract from the main story lines, embellishing with experiences and wisdom from their own lives. It then takes on the collective morals, or conscienceness, of that culture. From those individuals who we normally would not consider cultured, great gems of knowledge and wisdom are passed down through folktales. This is done without the traditional use of written language or use of proper organizational style. Yet these oral traditions are not without power; they reach into the very heart of what it is to be human.

Typically, folktales are set in believable surroundings with extraordinary people. We see the same in Sula. The setting is in a common Negro village called the "Bottom" where it is said that it is "the bottom of heaven" (Morrison 6). The wider historical settings are kept intact in the novel as the events of World War I swirl around and capture some of the residents of Bottom.

It is people, however, that makes up the surreal in Sula. Eva is a tireless grandmother who controls her domain of a large boarding house; Shadrach is a war-shocked veteran who invents an amnesty day for people to kill each other; Hanna and her daughter Sula are shameless adulteresses.

In this tale, Toni Morrison takes liberty to change the style of folklore (Harris 53). Instead of happy endings, violent ...


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...net.10 September 2001. <<http://www.viconet.com/~ejb/bio.htm>>

Harris, Trudier Fiction and Folklore: The Novels of Toni Morrison. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1991.

Hedge, Holly.  "Toni Morrison."  Empire Zine <http://www.empirezine.com/spotlight/toni-morrison/toni-morrison.htm>  (accessed on September 6, 2001)

Morrison, Toni Sula. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 1973.

"Morrison, Toni." Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2000.  <http://encarta.msn.com> 1997-2000 Microsoft Corporation. (accessed on September 26, 2001)

O'Neill, Cynthia.  Goddesses, Heroes and Shamans.  New York: Larousse Kingfisher Chambers Inc., 1994.

"Toni Morrison."  Contemporary Authors, Gale Research, 1993; abstracted at
<http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/~mmaynard/morrison/biograph.htm>  (accessed on September 26, 2001)

 


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