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…show more content… Africans are certainly spiritual in their worship, but why doesn’t anyone refer to their native cult as "African Religion?" Catholic rituals are obviously religious, but does one have to be spiritual to participate? These example are clearly overly-generalized, but the true matter of principle lies in the fact that we do refer to African religion as African Spirituality and other denominational rituals can in fact become far too routine. Morrison’s texts recognize the relationship between religion and spirituality and attempt to address the "critical issue of African Americans embracing Christianity, the religion of the slaveholders" (28).
The point has to be addressed as to whether Morrison’s references to Christian belief and symbolism are purposeful or unconscious. Because she is writing with the motive to prove a point regarding the struggles of African Americans, clearly some references (like for example her character’s names) are direct and premeditated. However, as Morrison herself claims to have read the Bible and made it an active part of her life (Unspeakable 32), fragments of Christian dogma filter through into her writing almost unconsciously. This autobiographical interlay of Christian symbols gives Morrison freedom to express her ideas more directly through personal insight.
Evidence in support of these hypotheses is found throughout Morrison’s literary cannon. Four novels most worthy of discussion are Song of Solomon, Sula,