Final Paper

Final Paper - Sangeetha Natarajan ENGL 363 Thrity Umrigar...

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Sangeetha Natarajan ENGL 363 Thrity Umrigar 15 November 2010 Toni Morrison and Gloria Naylor: The Maternal Depiction The mother-child dynamic is prevalent throughout the works of Toni Morrison and Gloria Naylor. This dynamic is one that is unique and distinct in its depictions as it transcends the classic feminist theories and movies into a dimension that accepts a woman’s matriarchal role. Once there, the dynamic is studied and used to illustrate the societal ideals that these two authors hope to convey. Toni Morrison and Gloria Naylor, through their works, depict African American motherhood as a complex state that can be successfully carried out to certain degrees based on environmental factors. Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye depicts the painful effects of intra-racism within a community. Pecola Breedlove, the novel’s main protagonist faces the internal and external struggles involved in surviving in an environment ridden with racism and self-hatred. Pecola’s mother Pauline Breedlove is a character integral to the development of Pecola’s self-image and the plotline of the story itself. Morrison’s introduction to Pauline’s character begins with an excerpt of the
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Dick and Jane narrative introduced at the beginning of the novel. She begins, SEEMOTHERMOTHERISVERYNICEMOTHERWILLYOUPLAY WITHJANEMOTHERLAUGHSLAUGHMOTHERLAUGHLA ” (Morrison, pp.110). The Dick and Jane narrative at the beginning incorporates this excerpt with spaces and punctuation. To the reader, Jane’s mother seems to be laughing out of joy and positive feelings at Jane’s request to play. However, this heading is very ominous, as Jane’s mother appears to be laughing at her daughter’s silly request. Morrison is setting the stage for the patronizing and negligent parenting she describes in the following chapter. Pauline is, as are the majority of the characters in the novel, deeply affected by the detrimental consequences of being a black American in the 1940’s. Throughout her life, she has struggled with the burden of internally directed hatred. Her first encounter with this type of hatred begins with the acquiring of a crooked limp due to the entering of a rusty nail, deep into her foot. Morrison describes this incident as “saving her from total anonymity” as without this limp, Pauline would have never been distinct in her community despite her failures as a parent to Pecola and her younger brother (Morrison, pp.110). Pauline uses this deformity to explain the absence of a normal childhood in which “she alone of all the children had no nickname” and “she never felt at home anywhere, or belonged 2
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anyplace” (Morrison, pp.111). However, Morrison chooses to convey Pauline’s reason for the abnormality as something that is only unique to Pauline, showing that Pauline’s rationale, while logical in her own mind, is not justified as a reason for the separateness she feels and subsequently, her failings as a mother. Pauline is eventually introduced to the movies through which she gathers
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Final Paper - Sangeetha Natarajan ENGL 363 Thrity Umrigar...

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