Toni Morrison

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What is an analysis of the character Sweetness in the novel God Help the Child by Toni Morrison?

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The character of Sweetness in God Help the Child by Toni Morrison is a light-skinned African American woman who has a deeply conflicted attitude toward race and skin color, which contributes to her abusing her daughter, Lula Ann or Bride. A critical character analysis of Sweetness would both focus on her problematic treatment of her child and address other significant relationships that shaped her personality and behavior.

Morrison structures the novel as a set of alternating chapters in which a number of characters each function as the first-person narrator of their own sections. Sweetness’s character can be traced through her three sections, as well as contrasted to Bride’s attitudes toward her mother shown in her sections.

Key to analyzing Sweetness is her insistence that she bears no responsibility for her actions; she repeatedly declares, “It’s not my fault.” This aspect of the analysis can include attention to her reminiscing about her own parents’ very light skin, to the extent that they often passed as white. Sweetness can be analyzed as an individual who believes in her mothering methods, as she truly believes that she is protecting her daughter from biases against dark skin.

She can also be explored as representative of the negative effects of social conditioning of the era, in the advocating for the benefits to their race conveyed by light-skinned Black people’s success. Sweetness’s changing attitudes after the adult Bride becomes successful could also be addressed.

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