Morrison’s Potential Inspiration

I don’t mean to jump ahead, but Sara’s post got me thinking about Morrison and her potential motives for her writing. I too have been exploring some of the intersections between Beloved and A Mercy that I have seen so far (I haven’t finished A Mercy yet). I was intrigued by Sara’s question, “What inspired Morrison, if not her own personal experience of discrimination?” This then reminded me of one of the questions brought up in the first class meeting: “How can we parallel Morrison’s work to what we see in society today?” While I can’t speak for Morrison, I like to believe that at the end of the day, Morrison, like many others, is trying to achieve a more equitable society through her writing. I think that she chose these characters, these settings, and these stylistic techniques (unconventional erratic narration and manipulation of time sequence) because nothing else seemed as powerful as providing a platform in which slave and non-slave could share an experience. It is not enough to merely educate people about slavery, to merely state that there were physical, emotional, and psychological consequences from slavery that still ripple through society today. Merely imparting this information is not enough to spur a change. Rather, sharing experiences can bring different parties to a clearer understanding of each other, which can, in turn, incite positive change.

Looking at the churn in Beloved and A Mercy might shed some light on what I mean. The unordinary and churning nature of Morrison’s novels allows the reader to experience a slave’s psychology – being abruptly taken to another place completely out of their own control and forced to wade through a disorienting series of events. This shared experience seems to promote the idea of healing the wound of slavery; by providing the reader with an intimate experience with the psyche of an ex-slave, Morrison is expanding the reader’s understanding of the physical and psychological damages left by slavery, which have continued through the present. This understanding could incite change; it could make blatantly clear the cultural scripts running underneath our own modes of thought and the prejudices that are still very real in our society. It could spur more motivated efforts to eliminate prejudice and discrimination and bring about a more equitable society.


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