The myth of “Philomela” is an ancient one and finds itself in the contemporary works of many African American female writers, such as texts written by Alice Walker and Toni Morrison. The incidence of this myth within texts supports the image of a powerful archetypical story which unambiguously joins the images of rape, silencing and the complete removal of female subjectivity. In the three specific texts, namely: Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple and Ovid’s Metamorphoses, each main female character experiences a similar fate yet each has a somewhat different outcome. Walker, however, tends to reconfigure her characters fate completely in withdrawing from patriarchal violence, which is present in all three texts.
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Toni Morrison is one of the most talented and successful African-American authors of our time. Famous for works such as The Bluest Eye, Sula, and Beloved, Morrison has cultivated large audiences of all ethnicities and social classes with her creative style of writing. It is not Morrison’s talent of creating new stories that attracts her fans. In contrast, it is her talent of revising and modernizing traditional Biblical and mythological stories that have been present in literature for centuries. Morrison replaces the characters in these myths, whom would have been white, middle-class males, with characters who depict the cultural practices in black communities. The protagonists in Morrison’s works are primarily African-American women
In “In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens”, Alice Walker looks to educate us on the hardships that almost all black women face when trying to express themselves through things such as art. She delves into many sociological and psychological concepts that have affected black women throughout human history. These concepts and ideologies created a realm for mass exclusion, discrimination, and oppression of many African American women, including Alice Walker’s Mother, who Alice utilizes as one of her particular examples. The writing thematically aims to show how these concepts of sexism, racism, and even classism have contributed to black women’s lack of individuality, optimism, and fulfillment for generations. The author does a tremendous job of defending and expanding upon her arguments. She has a credible background, being a black woman that produces the art of literature herself. As well as being raised by one, Walker’s first-hand experience warrants high regard. Therefore, her use of abstract and introspective language is presented clearly and convincingly. Also, her use of evidence and support from sources like Jean Toomer, Virginia Woolf, and Phillis Wheatley, all produce more validity for her stance through poems, quotes, and even experiences. All these individuals have their own accounts pertaining to the oppression of black women and their individuality. Successfully arguing that the artistry plights of black women described in “In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens” are
Harriet Jacob and Phillis Wheatley, Incident in the Life of a Slave Girl and On Being Brought from Africa to America both presents the existential conditions of being a black woman in a male dominated society. Despite their years span differences, both author present different, yet similar views of enslavement in America where black women struggle to reclaim their humanity and seek freedom within their society. For both Harriet and Phillis, both women used literacy as their voice to raise concern for the plight of enslaved African-Americans, more specifically the women.
“What is racism? Racism is a projection of our own fears onto another person. What is sexism? It’s our own vulnerability of our potency and masculinity projected as our need to subjugate from another person…” Gary Ross’s breakdown of the age-defying constructions of race and sexism exemplify how fabricated standards can take a toll on the well-being of individuals. American novelist Toni Morrison is renowned for her publications illustrating how racial stigma can dent a character physically, mentally and emotionally. “Sweetness”, an excerpt from God Help the Child, one of Morrison’s more recent works, follows the narrative of a guilt-stricken mother who allowed society’s predetermined notions of race interfere with her parenting, as her daughter was undeniably black while she and her husband have negro roots but are lighter skinned or ‘high-yellow’. As the story develops, it is obvious that the narrator, Lula Ann’s mother feels some sort of resentment for mistreating her child and holding her back from experiencing a blissful childhood like other youngsters, but is too shameful to admit it. With time, tables turn and Lula Ann, Lula Mae’s daughter is able to regain her self-esteem, moves away, builds a career, and is preparing to settle down with a family of her own and change her miserable fate given to her by her parents. Morrison successfully translates the destructive effects of prioritizing racial constructs through varied elements including: characterization, point of
While Morrison depicts myriad abuses of slavery like brutal beatings and lynching, the depictions of and allusions to rape are of primary importance; each in some way helps explain the infanticide that marks the beginnings of Sethe’s story as a free woman. Sethe kills her child so that no white man will ever “dirty” her, so that no young man with “mossy teeth” will ever hold the child down and suck her breast (Pamela E. Barnett 193)
As Morrison progressed as a writer one can definitively view her evolution not only as a writer but as a thinker. In Sula, the reader can view an author who is quintessentially confused by the system of segregation. Specifically, one could contrive that Sula is Morrison’s attempt to examine the aspects in which segregation helped cement African-American culture, but once America was desegregated the same communities that were empowered by oppression were decimated by the white communities’ extraction of African-American culture. Whereas within Love, one can view a Morrison not content with African-American proliferation under the banner of segregation, but hatred for the powerful individuals of the community that reinforced the system of segregation and oppressed their own community in the effort to gain not only money, but power. As one thinks about the multi-faceted layers of segregation within Toni Morrison’s writings, one can view a political activist who felt content in her youth, rationalizing the evils of this world, yet in the present an enraged woman content with not only the removal of white prosperity within segregation, but African-American elite prosperity upon the literal blood of African-American
Phillis Wheatley drew attention in the 18thcentury for being a black slave, and a child prodigy who was able to write poems and songs. She was born in Gambia, Africa, and brought to Boston as a slave when she was a child, and became slave and companion to John Wheatley’s wife. As she grew older, John Wheatley’s wife viewed her as a feeble and brilliant girl who deserves to be educated and felt great affection toward her. Therefore, Susanna Wheatley’s daughters taught Phillis how to read and write, so she delivered her honest opinions through her writings (Baym and Levine 763). Then she became the first African American writer to publish a book of poetry while other slaves were forbidden to learn how to read and write. Her ability to write and read gave her freedom of expression and enabled her to become a free woman. Her literacy influenced her surroundings in numerous ways. She was acknowledged by many people for her great poetical talents (“Phillis Wheatley, the First” para 3). In the poem “On Being Brought from Africa to America,” Phillis Wheatley appeals to ethos and pathos, uses suitable diction and a metaphor to demonstrate that the discrimination of Africans is barbarous, and encourages people to not judge by physical characteristics, but consider innate qualities.
This paper examines the feminist thoughtsas depicted in the works of black female writers, Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison. Both carry the common theme of describing the black woman and their sufferings in their novelsBeloved and I know why the caged bird sings. Both the writers handle a common feminist criticism. The silence, passivity and resistance of women protagonists are seen active of the feminist criticism.
During the civil rights movement many women and minorities were suppressed from being able to be true to themselves and what they believe in. Civil rights advocate and “womanist”, Alice Walker, in her poems, “Burial,” “Be Nobody’s Darling,” and “While Love is Unfashionable,” analyzes the importance of breaking away from the stereotypes set by society in efforts to prevent struggle. Walker uses a variety of parallelism, allusions, and metaphors to persuade readers to break free from the crowd and embrace the outcast found within the truest version of oneself.
Phillis Wheatley tells a compelling story of a young slave girl who was kidnapped from Africa and brought to America. Her extraordinary story speaks volumes to African Americans today. Having been enslaved, Phillis Wheatley became the first African American, and one of the first women, to publish a book of poetry during colonial America. Wheatley’s writing granted her the ability to achieve a great amount of fame despite the spread of slavery and the realities of her colonial times. Often, Wheatley’s poetic works are characterized by a strict adherence to the conventions of neoclassical verse, a reliance on iambic pentameter, and a focus on public and impersonal themes rather than personal self-expression. Despite some literary critics’ concern
Jacobs autobiography which is known by the name of ‘Incidents in a Life of a Slave Girl’ gave a true account of the treatment that black women faced during that time and also throwing some light on a perception which has been kept in shadows from the society. While writing the story of her life, Jacobs though focused on her defeat due to obstacles like race and gender, gave voice to something which was hidden from society regardless of the presence of patriarchal society of the nineteenth century.
Toni Morrison’s Beloved shows the dehumanization of slavery and its effects on African-Americans and their basic forms of existence—specifically motherhood. Morrison depicts the strong maternal bond between Sethe and her children. Most importantly, her use of Sethe’s controversial act of infanticide shows the lengths that Sethe will take to protect her children from slavery. Morrison’s depiction of Sethe’s motherhood shows how slavery has deconstructed the Eurocentric expectations and traditions of motherhood and gender for black women. Rather than victimize Sethe’s as an enslaved woman, Morrision decides to celebrate her triumphs and suffering in Beloved. Therefore, Sethe’s identity as an enslaved black mother deconstructs the expectations of Eurocentric gender roles with her exertion of independence and control for the benefit of her children.
Toni Morrison’s novel Sula explores black female life and relations conceived both within and outside sexist and racist influences and mediation. Morrison explores individual characters defined by racial and gender stereotypes while also presenting a focused rumination on a radical black female experience devoid of these oppressive classifications. Through the character Sula, Morrison creates a black female identity based on subjectivity, uninfluenced by the community’s societal gender expectations and lifestyle. Even though Sula possessed self-agency and autonomy, never adhering to her community’s standards, her self-assertion remains solely outside the racist and sexist environment and black community; she ultimately holds power over herself but she is unable to assert that power in “Bottom” as she is suppressed and ostracized, contained by avoidance and being characterized as “devil” and “witch” until she dies contently, knowing she lived freely, yet alone (hooks 150). Morrison’s presentation of Sula’s ostracization as a direct consequence of her ability to constitute
The women of the late sixties, although some are older than others, in Alice Walker’s fiction that exhibit the qualities of the developing, emergent model are greatly influenced through the era of the Civil Rights Movement. Motherhood is a major theme in modern women’s literature, which examines as a sacred, powerful, and spiritual component of the woman’s life. Alice Walker does not choose Southern black women to be her major protagonists only because she is one, but because she had discovered in the tradition and history they collectively experience an understanding of oppression that has been drawn from them a willingness to reject the principle and to hold what is difficult. Walker’s most developed character, Meridian, is a person
Like it was previously stated, the author is primarily targeting black women to encourage them to appreciate what their female ancestors suffered through to keep their heritage and spirit alive. However, Walker may have also had the intent to inform other audiences what it was like to be an African American woman in history. To accomplish her aims, she used certain types of style and tone that were very effective. Her stylistic approach was the use of many different examples. She tells the heartbreaking tale of little Phillis Wheatley, a “sickly, frail black girl” who was taken from her home as a small child to live and die as a slave in America. She includes a short passage written by poet Jean Toomer, in which he speaks to a black prostitute who falls asleep while he encourages her to express her artistic spirituality in a different way. She describes why these oppressed black women were named “Saints,” and at the conclusion of her essay, she uses her own mother as an example, and her own questions about her mother’s ability to keep her creative spirit alive throughout her