Toni Morrison is one of the most significant novelists of the postmodern period. Her novels have consistently explored the African American experience, using historical, social, and psychological themes to focus especially on the experiences of women. Morrison’s first novel was The Bluest Eye (1970), and her 1977 novel Song of Solomon led to a National Book Critics’ Circle Award. Her work as an editor at Random House led to the publication of The Black Book (1974). Beloved (1987) was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 1988, and Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (1992), a critical work, was a national best seller. In 1993, Morrison received the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Morrison’s novels combine psychological realism, social critique, symbolism, and the mythopoetic, resulting in a style similar to Magical Realism. Although her works are not limited to social protest, Morrison is concerned with racial themes frequently encountered in African American literature. Her novels reflect the workings of communities, the dilemmas faced by these families, and the problems encountered in their relationships. She also has addressed historical issues such as nineteenth century slavery. Her fiction celebrates survival and defines black identity as multifaceted. Influenced by William Faulkner and Ralph Ellison, she uses vernacular and poetic prose to create a stylistic balance between narrative perspective and dialogue.
In Sula, her second novel, Morrison creates an African American community in a fictional town that, like Lorain, Ohio, the author’s hometown, borders Lake Erie. Morrison’s concern for history and social context are evident in Sula. Her critique of nineteenth century slavery is strongly implied in the ironic naming of The Bottom. By using chronological sequences, Morrison suggests how the lives of her characters relate to broader societal transitions from World War I to the desegregation and urban renewal of the 1960’s. Economic disparity caused by segregation—an indirect cause of the failure of relationships—is one of the underlying central themes in the novel....
(The entire section is 899 words.)
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