Toni Morrison Questions and Answers

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How race and gender form the identity of a person in Toni Morrison's novels?

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One of the first things to remember when considering Morisson as a writer is the fact that she began her career during the Black Arts Movement in the late 1950s-60's. This movement's goal was to create a community of empowered Black artists who used their words to support the aims of revolutionary change, and one of those aims was to create a stronger identity for Black people, a sense of empowerment and a struggle against white dominated society.

For Black women coming out of that period, they existed in what can be called a state of double jeopardy. By this, I mean that they were double oppressed on account of the fact that they were Black (one oppressive characteristic based on racial inequality) and female (also oppressed for their status as secondary to men). Therefore, when Morisson develops her female characters, they are reacting in response to both race and gender limitations. They struggle against these limitations, they seek identity for themselves, and perhaps most importantly they act as witnesses to a history of captivity both emotional and physical as well as societal. The idea of bearing witness comes from the church (another powerful element in Morisson's work). These women in her novels carry on the history and the significance of those who are gone. They speak for those who cannot speak.

Analyze any female character in Morisson's works from this perspective and you wll begin to see a trend!

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