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A Comparison of Christian Symbols in Song of Solomon, Sula, and Beloved

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Although religion does not exist as a central theme in Toni Morrison’s work, it does set premise for a richly intertwined web of symbolism. Morrison’s novels focus on the lives of characters acting in the present day or recent past. For African Americans, events of the past are a crucial facet of culture as they seek to remember their history, the most influential of these events reaching far back into the years of slavery. Historians argue that for incoming slaves, Christianity offered a religious ground for the displaced individual, a soil in which to replant the symbols of their native spirituality. In interviews and articles regarding her works, Morrison seems to take on a tone of rejection towards the idea that the civilization of blacks was beneficial. However, through her use of blatant parallels to the Bible and obvious references to Christian doctrine, it is easy to see how a reader might interpret Morrison’s stance as one of affirmation of at least the Christianizing aspect of civilization.

Because of the broadness of Morrison’s mix in usage of Christian symbols and African American folklore, it is important to define the two facets of faith itself: religion and spirituality. Religious structure is built upon dogma, rituals, history, and tradition; spirituality exists as the "unchanging foundation" to that religious structure. Carolyn Mitchell explains both concepts most clearly in her essay titled, "Biblical Revisions in Beloved:" "Religion is the worship of God; spirit is God; spirituality is the individual manifestation of God in everyday life and experience. Spirituality creates an authentic relationship to one’s own life, calling one to be wholly present in and accountable for this life" (29). However, her defin...


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...er, ever near me, And the sacred past unfold" (Wright). The girls from childhood were blessings for each other, the escape from outside pressures that each needed. These "precious memories" flood Nel after Sula’s death when she reflects on her early years with Sula: " ‘We was girls together,’ she said as though explaining something" (174). The strength of the bond between Nel and Sula, as well as their failure to recognize the importance of each other before it is too, late follows through to the last page of the book. Nel is walking down a road alone; as she talks to herself crying for Sula, the sacred past unfolds before her (as evident through the authors use of the word "girl") and her epiphany serves as the resolution of the book: "All that time, all that time, I thought I was missing Jude . . . . O Lord, Sula . . . . girl, girl, girlgirlgirl" (174).

 

 


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