Toni Morrison Essay Research Paper Toni MorrisonToni

Toni Morrison Essay, Research Paper

Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison?s cultural heritage continues to shape her life and writing. On

February 18th, 1931 (Shockley 112), baby Chloe Anthony Wofford was born in Lorain,

Ohio to Ramah Willis Wofford and George Wofford, a shipyard welder (Draper 1422).

Chloe?s grandparents lived with her family (Showalter 320). Despite the Great

Depression of the 1930s, Chloe?s family stayed close-knit and supported one another

(?Morrison? Encarta). After graduating from Lorain High School in 1949, Chloe left for

the then all-black Howard University (Gray b). While at Howard University she decided

to change her name to Toni because Chloe was too hard for some people to pronounce

(Draper 1422). From there she moved on to Cornell where she studied English and in

1955 received her master?s degree. (Gray b). Toni returned to Howard University in 1957

to teach English. While teaching at Howard she met a Jamaican architect named Harold

Morrison. They married, had two sons, Harold Ford and Slade Kevin, then divorced in

1964 (Draper 1422). Morrison moved her sons to Syracuse, New York where she became

an editor at Random House and began writing novels (Gray b). Her novels have won and

continue to win many awards, the most prestigious being the 1993 Nobel Prize for

Literature (Caldwell 1). Since then Morrison started teaching at Princeton University in

New Jersey and continues to write (MacDonald 4). Morrison?s novels are influenced by

her rich cultural heritage, family, and passion for education.

The novel Sula is a direct product of Morrison?s cultural heritage. As an African

American woman who grew up in a culturally rich family Morrison brings culture to her

characters and community in Sula. She brings more than just the culture of African

Americans, but she also brings the culture of everyone else in American society. These

cultural aspects found in Sula are not always obvious; sometimes it simply appears as an

issue of what is right and what is wrong. In the Bottom they used Sula as an example of

?wrong.? No matter how sinful the citizens of Medallion became Sula remained a

woman more ?sinful? than any of them. She made them more comfortable with

themselves with her lack of morals.

When the word got out about Eva being put in Sunnydale, the people in

the Bottom shook their heads and said Sula was a roach. Later, when they saw

how she took Jude, then ditched him for others, and heard how he bought a bus

ticket to Detroit (where he bought but never mailed birthday cards to his two

sons), they forgot all about Hannah?s easy ways (or their own) and said that she

was a b—-. Everybody remembered the plague of robins that announced her

return, and the tale about her watching Hannah burn was stirred up again

(Morrison 112).

This sort of behavior is part human nature. Society likes to find people in

situations worse than their own, but as Morrison said, ?One person cannot raise a child?

(?World? Essence). Sula was a product of Medallion. They created her. Morrison?s

cultural influences constantly impact her writing.

Morrison?s writing is greatly influenced by her family. Her grandparents shared

their ?jokes, lore, music, language, and myths of African American culture? with

Morrison when she was a young girl (Showalter 320). Her mother, a homemaker,

believed strongly in equal rights for her four children (MacDonald 4). Her father, George,

was very racist. Commenting on her father?s perception of white people, Morrison said,

?He simply felt that he was better, superior to all white people…You know he didn?t let

white people in the house? (Draper 1422). George ?felt there was probably no chance for

racial harmony to prevail…? and ?He preferred his children to have nothing to do with

whites? (MacDonald 4). In Sula, when Shadrack finds himself in a ?small bed? after his

injury and analyzes the meal before him. He notices ?…the lumpy whiteness of rice, the

quivering blood tomatoes, the grayish-brown meat… Thus reassured him that the white,

the red and the brown would stay where they were-would not explode or burst forth from

their restricted zones…? (Morrison 8). This represents the general opinion of society most

African Americans possessed in 1919. It also reflects the opinions George Wofford

instilled in his children during the Great Depression. Morrison is weary of white people,

though she is not a racist person. She once said, ?I feel that white people will betray me;

that in the final analysis, they?ll give me up? (?Nobel? Jet). Family impacts Morrison?s

reading as well as her personal beliefs.

Morrison possesses an incredible passion for education. She graduated from

Lorain High School with honors (Gray b). She goes through tons of research before

writing her books. As an English teacher at Princeton she maintains her love of education

and inspires her students (Caldwell). Morrison enjoys reading books. In fact she rarely

turns on the television. She told Time Magazine, ?I think of (television) as one of those

fake fireplaces, always moving and always looking just the same? (Gray a). Morrison?s

life is built on education and as a result so is her writing.

Cultural heritage, family, and passion for education have become recurring

themes in Morrison?s novels as well as her life. Toni Morrison?s Sula represents a

culture of people not all that long ago. Morrison?s beliefs and the beliefs of her family

have influenced her greatly. Toni Morrison is an example of how every child is a product

of their culture, family, and education.



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