New York Times BestsellerPecola Breedlove, a young black girl, prays every day for beauty. Mocked by other children for the dark skin, curly hair, and brown eyes that set her apart, she yearns for normalcy, for the blond hair and blue eyes that she believes will allow her to finally fit in. Yet as her dream grows more fervent, her life slowly starts to disintegrate in the face of adversity and strife. A powerful examination of our obsession with beauty and conformity, Toni Morrison's virtuosic first novel asks powerful questions about race, class, and gender with the subtlety and grace that have always characterized her writing. "You can't go wrong by reading or re-reading the collected works of Toni Morrison. Beloved, Song of Solomon, The Bluest Eye, Sula, everything else -- they're transcendent, all of them. You'll be glad you read them."--Barack Obama
A national best seller, deemed "one of Morrison's most haunting works," A Mercy reveals what lies beneath the surface of slavery. But at its heart, like Beloved, it is the story of a mother and a daughter--a mother who casts off her daughter in order to save her, and a daughter who may never exorcise that abandonment.In the 1680s the slave trade in the Americas is still in its infancy. Jacob Vaark is an Anglo-Dutch trader and adventurer, with a small holding in the harsh North. Despite his distaste for dealing in "flesh," he takes a small slave girl in part payment for a bad debt from a plantation owner in Catholic Maryland. This is Florens, who can read and write and might be useful on his farm. Rejected by her mother, Florens looks for love, first from Lina, an older servant woman at her new master's house, and later from the handsome blacksmith, an African, never enslaved, who comes riding into their lives.
Toni Morrison--author of Song of Solomon and Tar Baby--is a writer of remarkable powers: her novels, brilliantly acclaimed for their passion, their dazzling language and their lyric and emotional force, combine the unassailable truths of experience and emotion with the vision of legend and imagination.It is the story--set in post-Civil War Ohio--of Sethe, an escaped slave who has risked death in order to wrench herself from a living death; who has lost a husband and buried a child; who has borne the unthinkable and not gone mad: a woman of "iron eyes and backbone to match." Sethe lives in a small house on the edge of town with her daughter, Denver, her mother-in-law, Baby Suggs, and a disturbing, mesmerizing intruder who calls herself Beloved. Sethe works at "beating back the past," but it is alive in all of them. It keeps Denver fearful of straying from the house. It fuels the sadness that has settled into Baby Suggs' "desolated center where the self that was no self made its home." And to Sethe, the past makes itself heard and felt incessantly: in memories that both haunt and soothe her...in the arrival of Paul D ("There was something blessed in his manner. Women saw him and wanted to weep"), one of her fellow slaves on the farm where she had once been kept...in the vivid and painfully cathartic stories she and Paul D tell each other of their years in captivity, of their glimpses of freedom...and, most powerfully, in the apparition of Beloved, whose eyes are expressionless at their deepest point, whose doomed childhood belongs to the hideous logic of slavery and who, as daughter, sister and seductress, has now come from the "place over there" to claim retribution for what she lost and for what was taken from her. Sethe's struggle to keep Beloved from gaining full possession of her present--and to throw off the long, dark legacy of her past--is at the center of this profoundly affecting and startling novel. But its intensity and resonance of feeling, and the boldness of its narrative, lift it beyond its particulars so that it speaks to our experience as an entire nation with a past of both abominable and ennobling circumstance. In Beloved, Toni Morrison has given us a great American novel. Toni Morrison was awarded the 1988 Pulitzer Prize in Literature for Beloved.
Nobel laureate Toni Morrison's novels have almost exclusively been examined as sagas illuminating history, race, culture, and gender politics. This gathering of eight essays by top scholars probes Morrison's novels and her growing body of nonfiction and critical work for the complex and potent aesthetic elements that have made her a major American novelist of the twentieth century.Through traditional aesthetic concepts such as the sublime, the beautiful, and the grotesque, through issues of form, narrative, and language, and through questions of affect and reader response, the nine essays in this volume bring into relief the dynamic and often overlooked range within Morrison's writing. Employing aesthetic ideas that range from the ancient Greeks to contemporary research in the black English oral tradition, The Aesthetics of Toni Morrison shows the potency of these ideas for interpreting Morrison's writing. This is a force Morrison herself has often suggested in her claims that Greek tragedy bears a striking similarity to "Afro-American communal structures." At the same time each essay attends to the ways in which Morrison also challenges traditional aesthetic concepts, establishing the African American and female voices that are essential to her sensibility. The result is a series of readings that simultaneously expands our understanding of Morrison's work and also provokes new thinking about an aesthetic tradition that is nearly 2,500 years old. These essays offer a rich complement to the dominant approaches in Morrison scholarship by revealing aspects of her work that purely ideological approaches have obscured or about which they have remained oddly silent. Each essay focuses particularly on the relations between the aesthetic and the ethical in Morrison's writing and between the artistic production and its role in the world at large. These relations show the rich political implications that aesthetic analysis engenders. By treating both Morrison's fiction and her nonfiction, the essays reveal a mind and imagination that have long been intimately engaged with the questions and traditions of the aesthetic domain. The result is a provocative and original contribution to Morrison scholarship, and to scholarship in American letters generally.
On first consideration, Nobel prize winning African-American author Toni Morrison would seem to have little in common with Virginia Woolf, the British writer who challenged Victorian concepts of womanhood. But Woolf's achievement and influence have been enduring, so much so that Morrison wrote her masters thesis on Woolf and William Faulkner. In that thesis, Morrison gives special attention to issues of isolation, and she notes that for Woolf, isolation brought a sense of freedom that the attached could never comprehend. This book examines the literary relationship between Woolf and Morrison.
In her own novels, Morrison redefined Woolf's concept of isolation in terms of American racism. While Morrison's female characters are clearly outsiders, they can nevertheless experience a sense of community that Woolf's characters cannot. Woolf's female characters, on the other hand, are often alienated because of their repressed erotic longing for women. Both Morrison and Woolf consider the severe obstacles the female artist must encounter and overcome before she can create art. This volume looks at the similarities that link Morrison and Woolf together despite their racial, ethnic, national, and historical differences, and it examines how differing structures of domination define their art.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Toni Morrison's Beloved is a spellbinding and dazzlingly innovative portrait of a woman haunted by the past.
Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has borne the unthinkable and not gone mad, yet she is still held captive by memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Meanwhile Sethe's house has long been troubled by the angry, destructive ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.
Sethe works at beating back the past, but it makes itself heard and felt incessantly in her memory and in the lives of those around her. When a mysterious teenage girl arrives, calling herself Beloved, Sethe's terrible secret explodes into the present.
Combining the visionary power of legend with the unassailable truth of history, Morrison's unforgettable novel is one of the great and enduring works of American literature.
The novels of Toni Morrison depict a disjointed culture striving to coalesce in a racialized society. No other contemporary writer conveys this "double consciousness" of African American life so faithfully. As her characters struggle to negotiate meaningful roles and identities, and as they confront the inescapable issue of division, her novels are permeated with motifs of fragmentation. This divided entity is a theme repeated throughout Morrison's fiction. Operating on many levels, this plurality-in-unity affects narrators, chronologies, individuals, couples, families, neighborhoods, races. Philip Page's critical interpretation of Morrison's first six novels--Sula, Song of Solomon, The Bluest Eye, Beloved, Jazz, and Tar Baby--places her fiction in the forefront of American culture, African American culture and contemporary thought. Her fiction has the power to expand the souls of all readers by taking them into the recesses of other souls-in-process, by requiring them to work the traumas and dilemmas those other souls endure, and by challenging them to know, accept, and keep open their own dangerous freedom.