Now that I’ve begun re-circling through Morrison’s Paradise to search for connections to Dante, I’ve encountered certain through-lines that I hadn’t noticed in my first reading. One of the most significant is the reoccurrence of the Kitchen as a thematic element; important to both the Convent and to the town of Ruby.
In Musa’s introduction to The Divine Comedy Volume 3: Paradise, he states that Canto 1 serves as a representation of all of the encompassing “themes, movements, structures, images, and symbols” that Dante will address, as they “appear in some way or another in the opening canto”(x). I believe that Morrison’s first chapter, Ruby, serves a similar function to Dante’s first Canto. Morrison drops the reader into a scene where significant aspects are quickly given and then pulled out of focus– only to resurface later on in the novel.
With this connection in mind, the value of every choice of detail in the first chapter should not be overlooked. I observed that one specific occurrence in Ruby lays the groundwork for the the common thread of “the kitchen”. This unravelling begins when the men raiding the convent Continue reading “Women, Men, and the Kitchen in Morrison’s Paradise.”
In my reading of Jazz up until the requirements for today’s class, I have been trying to unpack a reoccurring instance that has caught my attention, Violet’s Parrot. I began with a rather obvious initial question– Why a parrot? In an attempt to better understand Morrison’s intent in including the bird in the text, I began my search with a reading of a New York Times Review “My Parrot, My Self:
From the article, it is clear that the author believes that the allure of parrots exists in both the literary world and the “real” world. The author speaks of the BBC covering dozens of stories about parrots, almost every one “prefigured in a folk tale, novel, or poem.” The author specifically focuses on “Speke Parrot”, a poem written in the early 1520’s by Henry VIII’s poet laureate, John Skelton. In this poem, the parrot uses many different languages, and comes to serve as a complication to the argument that the general difference between humans and animals is the acquisition of language. This aspect, layered with the mention of birds in Dante’s inferno in the ring of the lustful, suggests that the Parrot’s inclusion in Morrison’s text highlights the animalistic nature of submitting to lust. Further, this relates to our class discussion about what actually defines the “pure and impure”. As a class, we concluded that Morrison creates many dichotomies when dealing with purity. Thus, the Parrot contributes the muddying of “innocence” when referring to sexuality and virginity within the text.
As we make the leap from Morrison’s A Mercy to Beloved this week, I can’t help but ask myself one question:
Why so many infant deaths?
In A Mercy, we learn of the numerous untimely passing of Rebekka’s babies. These deaths cause her grief that essentially serve as a driving force for her actions and relationships. For instance, Lina notes that she observes Mistress turning to God for prayer, although she previously believed her to not be much of a “Christian woman”. In Rebekka’s extreme grief, Morrison highlights the severity of impact that a broken maternal bond can produce for a mother. These dead essentially children “haunt” Rebekka, causing her shame, despair, and sadness. Continue reading “Infant Death and Haunting in “A Mercy” and “Beloved””
This semester, I will be conducting a directed study with Maria Lima on British Black Short Stories. I look forward to the connections and interesting perspectives that reading Toni Morrison’s novels alongside the works that I will be reading for Maria will provide. This past week we had our first meeting, and she suggested that I watch A Terrible Transformations, Africans in America. This is a documentary that focuses on the unique history of Slavery in America– one that moved from a system of indentured servitude of all races, to the kidnapping and enslavement of people of African heritage. Overall, I found the film to be quite beneficial towards my understanding of the enslavement of people based on race in the United States, and thought perhaps it could benefit the rest of the class as well.
Along with a better historical understanding, I also found that there were significant connections between A Terrible Transformation and Morrison’s A Mercy. The documentary discusses the conditions of the Slave Ships and Middle Passage–the trading of slaves that D’Ortega subtly makes references to as “factors out of his control.” The documentary also discusses Slavery as something that affected not only the Slave owners and Slaves themselves, but an entity that was tightly intertwined into the American Social and Economic system, in such a way that all people were affected indirectly. This issue is that something that we discussed as a class upon reaction to Jacob’s notion that he “does not deal in flesh.” Just because his direct commodity is not buying and selling slaves, we determined that he is not entirely blameless, due to the fact that he deals in goods that are primarily harvested by enslaved labor.
If interested, I would strongly recommend viewing this documentary. It is available on Youtube, and I have provided the link below. I believe that it provides a sound historical understanding that could be of aid when dealing with the issues that Morrison addresses in her novels.