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Toni Morrison

(1931)

from: "Fields of  Vision” by D.Delaney

Life and Works

Education and academic career Chloe Wofford was born in 1931 in Ohio. Her parents had moved north from Alabama in search of job opportunities and to escape racism. An excellent student, she graduated from High School with honors, and received a Master’s Degree in 1955. Her  name was difficult to pronounce, so she called herself and abbreviated form of her second name, Anthony. From 1955 to 1964 she taught English in universities in Texas and Washington DC. She married Harold Morrison in 1958 and had two sons before the marriage ended in a divorce six years later.

The Bluest Eye In 1964 Morrison moved to New York, where she worked as an editor. She attracted critical attention in 1970 with her first novel The Bluest Eye. It is the story of a little black girl who yearns for blue eyes because she believes that, if she meets the standards of beauty of the dominant white culture, her miserable life will be entirely different. By the novel’s end she goes mad, believing she has blue eyes and obsessively asking an imaginary alter ego if her eyes are ‘the bluest’.

More novels In 1971 Morrison resumed her academic career. While busy teaching, editing and parenting as a single mother, she also wrote several novels (Sula, 1973; Song of Solomon, 1977; Tar Baby, 1981) which were hailed by the critics as major literary achievements.

Beloved  It was her fifth novel Beloved (1987) that gained her unconditional admiration and the Pulitzer Prize. The story, set after the Civil War, focuses on a community of former slaves trying to reconstruct their lives and come to terms with their horror-filled past. The main character, Sethe, a slave, kills her baby daughter rather than see her grow up in slavery. She then runs away and starts a new life on a farm in Ohio. After eighteen years the ghost of her daughter reappears as the eighteen year-old girl she would have been if she had lived. Vindictive and malevolent, she seeks revenge for her death by wreaking havoc on the household. Beloved is not a linear tale. The story shifts back and forth in time and is told from the point of view of several characters.

Jazz Using the same complex narrative technique and shifting point of view, Jazz (1922) is a gripping story of passion and murder. Most of the characters are unable to love. They bear the wounds of slavery which have been passed on from one generation to another and which prevent them from learning how to express their emotions. To overcome this obstacle, they must remember the grim reality of their past and rise above it. The prose style is very varied: it ranges from the highly poetic and richly expressive to the spare, precise and direct.

Role as a writer In her powerful novels Morrison explores the black experience through the lives and memories of her characters. In an interview she explained that ‘As a black and a woman, I have had access to a range of emotions and perceptions that were unavailable to people who were neither’. Through her writing she shares those ‘emotions and perceptions’ with her readers. In 1993 she received the Nobel Prize for Literature. Morrison currently teaches creative writing at Princeton University.


External Links:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toni_Morrison         


 
 
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