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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School


First Advisor

Lou Williams


Morrison's most recent narratives are a "skillful blending of techniques from different aesthetic traditions in the creation of another" tradition (Jablon 47). In Tar Baby, Morrison joins Son, the black nationalist who romanticized the past, with Jadine, the Western assimilationist who prefers to eradicate the past and look toward the future. The ultimate failure of their relationship displays the rigidness of both cultures and the unreliability of reality according to the individual viewpoint. Beloved takes the message of Tar Baby further. The ghost of Sethe's dead baby (the past) comes to life, melding both past and present into an inseparable cyclical time frame. Beloved assists Sethe in her healing process, but her neediness saps Sethe's strength. Though healing, the past ultimately proves too painful for Sethe. The community exorcises the ghost, and a glimmer of hope for Sethe's future is revealed at the close of the book. Growth according to the Western linear scheme includes a child maturing to quest for individuality, then dispersing this wisdom in old age. Morrison's growth chart doesn't quite match. Her three basic characters--the child, the quester, and the ancestor--form a community interconnected in a circular time scheme. Though individuals with separate identities, these characters must also connect. Without the support of the others, the individual character fails. Her message reaches readers who share a keen ear for synchrony. Morrison's "inscrutable workmanship" forces readers out of their conventions to understand these variations for themselves.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Morrison, Toni -- Characters
Morrison, Toni -- Criticism and interpretation
Conflict (Psychology) in literature
Harmony (Philosophy) in literature




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