Writing on Women Writers

A site for college students to write about women writers.

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Toni Morrison is was born February 18 1931 in Lorain Ohio. n 1949 Morrison entered Howard University, where she received a B.A. in English in 1953. She also earned a master’s degree  in English from Cornell University in 1955, for which she wrote a thesis on suicide in the works of William Faulkner and Virginia Woolf . After graduation Morrison moved to Houston Texas and became an English teacher at Southern Texas University. After her divorce in 1962 she moved to Syracuse, New York, where she worked as a textbook editor. A year and a half later she went to work as an editor at the New York City headquarters of Random House which is the largest general-interest trade book publisher in the world.

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As a young girl Morrison’s father, George Woford, told her numerous folktales, which she states is a method of story telling that later worked its way into some of her writing. The folktales were primarily about black communities. Her novels are known for their epic themes, vivid dialogue, and richly detailed characters.  One example of this would be in her only sort story “Recitatif“.  This short story is the story of two young girls. Right from the beginning of the story the reader learns that the two girls are of different races. However, throughout the story, the reader is unaware of which girl is of which race. Morrison plays on stereotypes of whites and blacks, and lets the readers decide for themselves which girl is which.

Recitatif

 

One example of how Morrison uses stereotypes in order to make the reader define the girls races is on the first page. Morrison states, “And Mary, that’s my mother, she was right. Every now and then she would stop dancing long enough to tell me something important and one of the things she said was that they never washed their hair and they smelled funny. Roberta sure did. Smelly funny, I mean.” (1225). Right from the start you can see how Morrison uses aspects of what the reader may assume to be stereotypical connections to race. The fact that the mother told her daughter in the story that “they” never wash their hair is already showing racial assumptions. Since the Morrison put this in the story, she is making the reader  lean toward conventional aspects that would define the girls’ races.

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Another example of stereotypes in the story that Morrison uses would be the girls second meeting in the story, eight years later during the 1960’s. The reading states, “”We’re on our way to the Coast. He’s got an appointment with Hendrix.” She gestured casually toward the boy next to her. “Hendrix? Fantastic,” I said. Really fantastic. What’s she doing now?” Roberta coughed on her cigarette and the two guys rolled their eyes up at the ceiling. “Hendrix. Jimi Hendrix, asshole. He’s only the biggest- Oh wow. Forget it””. (1229) When reading this the reader is forced to assume the races of the girls. One may assume that because Jimi Hendrix was a African-American rock singer, that it is African-American teenagers who would be going to see him. However, Jimi Hendrix’s music was popular throughout different communities, came from England, and had a band with two white men. or that reason it could be possible that the girl who was going to the concert could be Caucasian.

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One other example of how the reader show decide for themselves which girls is which raced based on the stereotypes provided would be during the racial strike. It states, “”Maybe I am different now, Twyla. But you’re not. You’re the same little state kid who kicked a poor old black lady when she was down on the ground. You kicked a black lady and you have the nerve to call me a bigot.”” Twyla responds by saying, “She wasn’t black”. (1234). When reading this the reader might first assume that Roberta is the one that is black. This is because she is the one who is participating at a racial strike. However, there were also Caucasians that helped and participated in different racial strikes. Also, the act that they use the word “bigot” can be taken in different ways.  Bigot can be defined as, “a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices”.  It’s an interesting word to use because it could go wither way with which girl you put with which race.

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All in all, you can see how Morrison uses the readers own stereotypes on racism in order to define which character is which race.

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