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Essay on African-American Literature: Analysis of Toni Morrison’s Novel Song of Solomon

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African-American literature was composed by the descents of Africa, who came to America as slaves, later got settled and educated. Their writing mainly speaks about the suffering, depression, and oppression by Americans. Later they adapted the modern way of living as Americans. This literature is dominated by Autobiographical narratives of Africans and reached its peak by slave narratives. According to W E B. Du Bois, the writing in African American literature displays “double consciousness”, they acquire both the trace of Africans and modernity of Americans. They contributed to the literature comprising bicultural identity, irony, parody, tragedy and bitter comedy in negotiating this ambivalence, an attack upon presumed white cultural superiority, a naturalistic focus on inventing and reframing of language itself.

African-American literature generally focused on the on the role of African American in a society more likely to be surrounded by Americans. The African American writers started to use the language of American English in their writing. According to Princeton University professor Albert J. Raboteau, “all African-American study speaks to the deeper meaning of the African-American presence in this nation. This presence has always been a test case of the nation's claims to freedom, democracy, equality, the inclusiveness of all.”

African-American literature is presented in the point of view of African American. Their search identity still goes on. Through their writing they fight for their rights against the white. It helps them to take over their problem and sufferings to the people to make them understand the situation they got into especially the black women who were subjected to double marginalisation. African-American literature was influenced by the Great African Heritage. African-Americans were good in Poetry which were sung with music as the concept of Spirituality. They use literary devices such as repetition and alliteration.

In the history of African American literature Harlem Renaissance plays a vital role in the growth of Art and literature. Harlem Renaissance first emerged in Harlem, which is near the city of New York. A large number of African American Community lives in Harlem as a result of Great Migration. Harlem is the African American Cultural Centre. The poets, artists, musicians and philosophers were all involved in the Harlem Renaissance.

The famous Harlem Renaissance writers such as WEB Du Bois and Marcus Garvey exhibit the themes such as Racism, ethnic pride which were related to Harlem Renaissance and the life of African American people. During the Renaissance African American changed drastically. They started to dress up like American wearing coat and suits. The Harlem Renaissance played a crucial role in changing the perception of African Americans. Before 1920s Black were thought to be the uneducated farmers, but it was changed during Harlem Renaissance, they were called to be the sophisticated and intellectual African Americans.

It also set a pathway to the black women writers. It is in this period that we could come across the creative women writers such as Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Maya Angelou and Zora Neale Hurston. Among the other participant of Renaissance, Langston Hughes plays a vital role. He introduced a new form of poetry known as Jazz Poetry.

Toni Morrison was an African American writer who was originally named Chloe Anthony Woffor. She was born as the second of four children to George and Ramah Woffor on February 18, 1931 in Lorain, Ohio, USA. She is noted for her examination of black experience, particularly black female experience, within the black community. Her debut novel appeared on the cusp of the civil rights and feminist movement: a time of great transformations and unparalleled historical significance. She times the appearance of The Bluest Eye so well that its impact reverberates strongly into the present. This is no wonder since her writing is not intended to cater for the general masses, nor does it follow the narrow furrows and structures of fiction writing which are usually implicitly understood.

The importance of her work does not only extend along the dimension of aesthetic value: her work is not cathartic in the sense of presenting true beauty loftily idealized; instead she endows her fictional voices with daring, cunning, resolve, resilience; they are often the loud or muffled voices of the surprisingly articulate and heart-rending insane, the latter perversion of mind being perceived in relation with mind-numbing senseless conformity. One may never tell where artistry begins and ends and to what extent her literary offerings will shape future mentalities, but one thing is for sure: her unquenchable thirst for racial justice and her innovative techniques will never cease to challenge our take on things. She received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993 for the book The Bluest Eye.

Morrison’s first book, The Bluest Eye (1970), this novel revolves around a little girl, named Picola, who think herself to be ugly and wanted to have a blue eye which he think would make her beautiful. In order to gain it she faced numerous problems at last gone mad.

In 1973 her second novel, Sula, was published. Sula is a story about the two best friends Nel and Sula with contrast personalities. Their trust for each other is very strong, But the circumstances made Sula broke Nel’s trust.

Tar Baby (1981), set on a Caribbean island, explores conflicts of race, class, and sex. Into a white millionaire’s Caribbean mansion comes Jadine, a sophisticated graduate of Sorbonne, art historian – a black American now living in Paris and Rome. Then there’s Son, a criminal on the run, uneducated violent, contemptuous- young American black of extreme beauty from small- town Florida A Morrison follows their affairs, she chart the nuances of obligation and betrayal between blacks and whites, masters and servants, and men and women.

The Beloved (1987), which won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction, is based on the true story of a runaway slave who, at the point of recapture, kills her infant daughter in order to spare her a life of slavery. Toni Morrison’s novel contains the passages of stream of consciousness, dialectal dialogue, flashbacks from the past and the conflation of past and present resulting in a destabilized horizon of racial and individual formation.

In 1992 Morrison released Jazz, a story of violence and passion set in New York City’s Harlem during the 1920s. Joe Trace, in his fifties, door- to- door salesman of Cleopatra beauty products, erstwhile devoted husband - shoots dead hi lover of three months- the impetuous, eighteen year old Dorcas. At the funeral, his determined, hard working wife, Violet, who is given to stumbling into dark metal cracks, tries with a knife to disfigure the corpse.

Paradise (1998), a richly detailed portrait of a black utopian community in Oklahoma. Four young women are brutally attacked in the convent near a black town in rural Oklahoma. Spanning the birth of the Civil Right Movement, Vietnam, the counter culture and politics of the late 1970s, deftly manipulating Past, Present and Future, this novel reveals the interior lives of the town with astonishing clarity.

Love (2003), an intricate family story that reveals the myriad facets of love and its ostensible opposite. Love ultimately comes full circle to that indelible, overwhelming first love that marks us forever.

A Mercy (2008) deals with slavery in 17th-century America. The revolve around the young girl who was brought by Jacob Vaark, a trader as a mode of payment for debt. After his death she was taken care by his widow wife. The young girl was in search of love which was later fulfilled by an African Goldsmith.

Home (2012), a traumatized Korean War veteran encounters racism after returning home. His home may seem alien to him, but he is shocked out of his crippling apathy by the need to rescue his medically abused younger sister and take her back to the small Georgia town they come from and that he’s hated all his life.

In God Help the Child (2015), Morrison chronicled the ramifications of child abuse and neglect through the tale of Bride, a black girl with dark skin who is born to light-skinned parents.

The central theme of Morrison’s novels were the racial oppression between African Americans and white society which she appealed through her characters, searching for identity, feministic view battle between good and evil were her other theme.

Some of the contemporary writers of Toni Morrison were Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Octavia E. Butler, Ralph Ellison, Jean Toomer, Langston Hughes, Alice Walker, and Richard Nathaniel Wright, Zora Neale Hurston.

Alice Walker is an American novelist, short story writer, poet and social activist. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Some of her famous works were Colour Purple, The Third Life of Grange Copeland, The Chicken Chronicles, Meridian etc.

Colour Purple, is an epistolary novel. It depicts the life of young uneducated teenage girl who was raped and abused by her Step-Father. The letter which he writes to God and her Sister Nettie narrates the complete story.

The Chicken Chronicles, this novel put forth the life of a teenage boy, Steve Guttenberg, who works as a caretaker of a folk of chicken and who cannot stop himself from impressing his dream girl, Lisa Reever.

Meridian richly portrays the life and experience of a black woman. Her active role in Civil Right Movement which in turn affected her personal life.

Jean Toomer was an American poet, born on 26th December, 1894, and expired on 30th March, 1967. He was a poet, playwright, novelist commonly associated with Harlem Renaissance. He got a good reputation as a writer only by his work Cane, which brought a great revolution.

Cane, depicts the situation of African American experience in United States. The novel is considered to be the revolutionary novel as it constitutes various genre within it such a poetry, dialogue, prose, essay and narrative.

Natalie Mann is a feminist drama that deals with the revolutionary feminist treatment of both male and female characters.

Langston Hughes was an American poet, playwright, social activist and a novelist. He is the central figure in Harlem Renaissance to progress in a literary aspect by giving new form of Jazz poetry.

Not Without Laughter, is a Semi Autobiographical novel as the characters and setting included in the novel are based on his memories of growing up in Lawrence. It explores the life of African American and the dominated nature of Women on the protagonist Sandy in a fragmented society which is divided by race and religion.

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I, too, Am American, is poem which approves and demonstrates the yearning of equality through the perseverance and contradicts the thought that patriotism is limited by races.

Zora Neale Hurston was an American Author, Anthropologist and a filmmaker. In her work she mainly depicts the portrayal of racial struggles in 20th century American South. In 1930 Hurston collaborated with Hughes on a Play titled Mule Bone: A Comedy of Negro Life in the Three Act which was published posthumously in 1991.

Their Eye were Watching, the story revolves around the character, Janie Crawford, an independent women who underwent marriage for three times to seek her identity.

Jonah Gourd Vine, is her first novel published in 1934, tells the story of Jean Buddy Pearson, who had affair with many women which in turn leads to his downfall from Mayor to a mere person.

Mules and Men, is an Autobiographical collection of African American folklore collected when she explores the place in two trips namely Eatonville and Polk county; Florida and in New Orleans.

Octavia E Butler was an African American science fiction author and a recipient Hugo and Nebula Awards. In 1995 she was the first science fiction writer to receive Mac Arthur Fellow Award.

Kindred, is the first science fiction Novel written by a black woman. In this story Dana time travels to 1815 where slavery overheads Africans. It is a complex literary aspect a as science fiction a it undergoes slave Narratives with that of time travelling.

Bloodchild is an award winning novelette that describes the life of who escaped Earth and lived in the planet named Tlic planet. The creatures of that planet considered human being as the host of child implantation. It exhibits the contradictive fact of male pregnancy.

Parable of Talents is the second series of the novel Parable of Sower. In this novel the story continue after four years from the events that took place in Parable of Sower. The story is narrated by Lauren Oya Olamina and her daughter Larkin Olamina.

Countee Cullen was an American poet, novelist, children’s writer and playwright. He was considered to be the light of Harlem Renaissance. A New York public library was named after Countee Cullen a Countee Cullen Library.

The Lost Zoo, is a children’ book, which deals with the story of animal in the last Zoo, who missed the Noah’s Ark.

Color, is a collection of Countee Cullen’s First book, which contains the collection of more than seventy poems.

Maya Angelou was an American poet, novelist, and a civil right activist. She nearly wrote seven autobiographies which explore the themes of economic, racism and sexual oppression.

And Still I Rise, is the third volume of poetry which was published during one of the most productive period in her career.

The Heart of a Woman is an autobiography which constitutes of her life from 1957 to 1962 and also her difficulty in rearing her son.

Mom and Me and Mom is her last and final book of autobiography in which she wrote about her mom Vivian Baxter and Maya’s relationship with her.

According to Clarence Major, Major is an American poet, novelist, short story writer, critic, and educator, says-- …'Morrison is the type of writer who would tell me that she works hard to make the presence of the writer disappear. Even so. Even so. When one goes to a book for a great reading experience, one does not wish to escape the page one is looking at…”--The American Book Review, Vol. 9, No. 6, January-February, 1988, p. 17.

The researcher, named Wendy E. Davis, did his research Titled “Self – Destructive Women in Toni Morrison’s Novels”. In Toni Morrison’s novel Song of Solomon, the two women, Ruth and Hagar who were in the path of destructiveness by their attitude. Hagar come to the acquaintance with death when she was obsessed with her appearance. Ruth too ruined her character when she got sexual pleasure by feeding her own son. Her longing for love and sexual feeling made her fall in the eyes her husband and others. This thesis also shows the character such as Pilate, a very strong woman, who exist in Black Community. Through this thesis the researcher tries to put forth the solution of how the future women should be by portraying both weak and strong women in the Novels of Toni Morrison.

The Researcher named Rachel Rest, did his thesis on “The Forgotten Women of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Song of Solomon”. In this research he explored the significance of the female character by analysing how Morrison’s narrative form ignore or neglect certain social factors and there by taking a closer look at the racer moment in which Morrison gives the actors the opportunity to speak. He also has explored how utilising different female voice and stories necessary in representing and experiences that multitudes of standpoints and experiences that constitutes American Blackness.

Morrison finds a way to elevate the voices of forgotten women in a way that does justice to the richness and messiness of the Black female experience. In a society that continues to ignore, marginalize, and forget Black women, Morrison’s novels suggest that while these women aren’t perfect or without fault—they have important things to say. The stories of Pecola in The Bluest Eye and Hagar in Song of Solomon outline how forgetting women can wreak irreparable psychological harm. Pauline, Ruth, and Lena give insight into the triple consciousness characteristic of Black womanhood, portraying it as both a blessing and a curse.

A Researcher named Amita Naik, has done his thesis on “The Novel of Toni Morrison- A Feministic study” which deals with the contradictive role of female characters. She also specified the work Song of Solomon as a unique one as it speak of male character and his upliftment.

A Researcher named K Sumana, has done his thesis on “Race Gender and Class in the novel of Toni Morrison a Study, which deals about the interrelation of Race gender and class. In all these, the one who is more prone to domination and alienation is a woman.

A Researcher named Koshi Elizabeth Valsa, has done a thesis on “Psychic Fragmentation and Reintegration in the Novel of Toni Morrison” which deal with the fragmantic nature of the characters where they seems to be deviated from the society and then in turn reunite with them by the end.

In this Research study, the Researcher deals with the deconstruction of the female character primarily that of Ruth, Pilate, First Corinthian, and Magdalena. Their role in the novel will be dealt in a new perspective. In previous Researches about women character in Toni Morrison’s novels will always be dealt with their fault or how they were suppressed.

This research aims at changing the perspective of human that women are lower to men. This brings the importance of female character in this novel so that their role in novel could be emphasized. This study focus on how a woman leads to the transformation of a man.

“Patriarchal Deconstruction of Women in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon.” Patriarchal society refer to the society where men dominates women and have a complete power over the house, its female participant, and also the hierarchical property. In this study, there will be the breaking of this system of Patriarchy. In this process we will be deconstructing the usually portrayed character of women.

Chapter 1 gives an introduction to the Literature where the origin of the literature, famous influential writers of that period and their work are precisely dealt. The author of the literary piece for the study is given with their contemporary writers and critic’s view on the author and the work , the Literature Review of the two thesis done were dealt. The Objectives and Statement of the Thesis is stated which make the study more clear of what is going to be dealt in further coming chapters.

Chapter 2 deals with the methodology, the method which is applied to prove the statement. In this study we will be using the Deconstruction Theory. The elements of the theory are stated briefly that help us to understand the theory and its application to the literary text.

Chapter 3 deals with the main content of the study where the Statement of Thesis is proven with the incidental and experimental evident from the textual context. The theory is applied to the literary piece. This help us to analyse the system of the piece with reference to the Deconstruction Theory.

Chapter 4 deals with the conclusion of the study where the restatement of the thesis is given and result of the study is summarized. It also includes Researcher’s inference to the text and his own findings in the thesis.

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Essay on African-American Literature: Analysis of Toni Morrison’s Novel Song of Solomon. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 1, 2024, from
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