Toni Morrison Rootedness Essay

Toni Morrison Rootedness Essay-54
Oral literature had existed before and persists in folk tales and songs.

Oral literature had existed before and persists in folk tales and songs.With few exceptions, it had been strictly forbidden to blacks during slavery to learn to read or write.As Morrison goes on to argue, the slave narratives during a considerable period of time had quite a large readership – and more so for their modesty and pseudo objectivity.

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The reaction of the reader to Morrison's reactivation of the cultural heritage of the black community is telling.

Some interpret the motive as stemming from western literary tradition; others, presumably, acknowledge its African-American origin.

The passage reveals a tension characteristic of Morrison's aesthetic concept: the tension between a black and a white literary tradition, between the oral art forms typical of the African heritage and the formal criteria of the western literary canon.

This tension is omnipresent in her novel Song of Solomon, which portrays a community rooted in the oral tradition, yet already in the process of shifting to literacy.

The tension of oral versus literary culture in the novel serves to illustrate the unequal relationship of the black and the white race-groups in a segregated America, the conflict of a mainly black lower class with a prosperous white society and the cultural change inside a black community under the influence of the integration into the rationalist capitalism of the north.

At the same time, the text itself has a certain oral quality. Let me give you an example: the flying myth in Song of Solomon.

The black authors, in turn, met the idiosyncrasies of their white audience by striking a neutral and objective tone: "It was extremely important […] for the writers of these narratives to appear as objective as possible – not to offend the reader by being too angry, or by showing too much outrage […]" (Morrison 1987: 106).

As black authors depended on their audience for support and hoped that their texts would lead to an improvement of their condition, the narratives were written to please white readers.

In Song of Solomon, Morrison brings together the two traditions as she incorporates aspects and elements of the Afro-American oral heritage into the structure of a contemporary novel.

In doing so, she both treats orality thematically and attempts to lend her fiction the character of an oral performance instead of a written text.


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