The Impact of Race, Gender and Class on Identity via Morrison
Toni Morrison's novels address the impact of race on identity, specifically, the impact of living life as a black person in a black world, surrounded by a white society that both denies and violates blacks. Examining Morrison's novels, I will discuss the manner in which blacks' identities are formed based on their color, and at times, their gender and class, and the obstacles they encounter in an attempt to negotiate life in the oppressive environments they inhabit. Their world, explicitly divided by racism and segregation, forces them to continually adjust their place, and at times their identity, in their hostile climate. The black characters are corporeal "Others" who, for the most part, absorb the dominant discourses and standards of their society. Black women, as the lowest members of the racist, patriarchal society they inhabit, are "doubly Other", and are used by black men as a means to vent their rage and frustration. Further, the often self-loathing blacks have learned to see the world through white eyes, causing them to experience hate and loathing of their own race. I will discuss how some blacks learn to live with their "ugliness", while others attempt to "pass" (to become white). Additionally, I will consider the impact of class differences within the black society, and further, I will explore the elevated status of those light-skinned blacks (both within the black community and within society as a whole). I will also investigate the underlying reasons as to why certain characters reject white supremacist ideas and, recognizing in themselves beauty, embrace their own culture and identity.
Keywords: Toni Morrison
Dr. Carol King