Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 11 : 5 May 2011
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.
         S. M. Ravichandran, Ph.D.
         G. Baskaran, Ph.D.
         L. Ramamoorthy, Ph.D.





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Role and Significance of Black Community in
Toni Morrison's Fiction

Jyoti Deswal, Ph. D. Scholar

Toni Morrison

Nature and Scope of Toni Morrison's Works

Toni Morrison, a Nobel Laureate, is considered one of the foremost figures in contemporary American fiction whose award-winning novels have won her international acclaim. In her fiction, Morrison addresses the issues related to the lives of Afro-Americans and explores the impact of socio-historic forces pitted against them. No doubt, Toni Morrison has received a good deal of critical attention and her novels have evoked wide and divergent critical response. A brief overview of Morrison's criticism would reveal the nature and scope of various approaches to her work.

Use of Black Cultural Tradition and Issues

Critics of African-American literature have demonstrated Morrison's aesthetic and thematic use of black cultural tradition. According to Trudier-Harris, the Afro-American history of tales, legends, beliefs and structure of folk-tradition form the basis of Morrison's novels.

Susan Willis analyses Morrison's novels from historical perspective and sees the process of history at work in Morrison's novels Melissa Walker examines Morrison's novels against the background of the Civil Rights Movement.

The feminist critics have focused on how gender shapes Morrison's texts. Karla Holloway and Stephanie Demetrakopoulos study Morrison's portrayal of the black American women enduring life-long catastrophe. Barbara Smith finds both lesbian and feminist questions about black women's destiny in Morrison's class consciousness and cultural redefinitions.

There is yet another set of critics who have focused on the relationship between whites and blacks in Morrison's novels. James Berger finds Morrison depicting a pervasive system of racism in her fiction.

Some critics have delineated universal paradigms in Morrison's fiction. Terry Otten traces the pervasiveness of horrific love while Keith E. Byerman finds a nihilistic and black vision in Morrison's work. Critics like Denise Heinze and Gray Straff analyze the role of family in Morrison's novel.

Attention on Core Issue of Role and Significance of Community

This broad overview of various critical responses to Morrison's fiction reveals that most critics have ignored the core issue of role and significance of community in Morrison's fiction. There are, however, critics like Wendy Harding and Jacky Martin, Patrick Bryce Bjork, Dorothy H. Lee, Roberta Rubenstein, Valerie Smith and Barbara Christian who take up the analysis of this vital concern of the author.

Wendy Harding and Martin observe that Morrison's concern in her novels centers around the black people and their community because her "creative imagination centers on the position of a community buffeted in the tug of war between two cultures" (Wendy & Mrtin:171).

According to the critics, "Morrison's characters barely seem to exist outside the collectivity," because "when they embark on self-defining quests that take them beyond the borders of their community, they generally disappear from the narrative framework" (Wendy & Mrtin:88).

This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

Jyoti Deswal, Ph. D. Scholar
J J T University Chudela
Jhunjhunu 333001
Rajasthan India

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