Connections among Toni Morrison novels


Toni Morrison implores similar themes in many of her novels, the three most prevalent being racial divide, child abuse, and self-discovery. She does this through her meticulous choice of characters and their surroundings, such as spirit vs. physical world.

In Tar Baby, Morrison uses racial division to highlight the different backgrounds of Son and Jadine. Both are the same race -African American- but they were raised in different households and cultures. Jadine’s European raising made her a more vocal and progressive member of society whereas Son’s traditional, African American raising led him to be stuck in old ways –  afraid and uncomfortable with change. In The Bluest Eye, racial divide takes on beauty  standards; Pecola, a main character, longs for blue eyes and pale skin so that she may be worthy of love.

Morrison also explores racial divisions in both the physical and spiritual worlds. Tar Baby is based on the old children’s tale : Disney’s The Wonderful Tar Baby, in which Brer Rabbit tries becomes entangled the more he fights a tar and turpentine doll designed to entrap him. This short story coincides with Morrison’s own novel Tar Baby in that Son brings up the tale and both he and Jadine are sort of “stuck” in their own worlds-physical worlds. The spiritual world is included in Beloved, in which the ghost of a murdered Beloved haunts a slave family, and in Song of Soloman, a religious spirituality is explored with biblical references; Soloman is named in the bible.

Toni Morrison brings light to child abuse in Tar Baby, Beloved, and her most recent novel God Help the Child. In all three novels, reasoning is provided for the child abuse; the color of the child’s skin, inner insecurities, anger, parent’s own mistreating in past years. Regardless of the reasoning behind the abuse, Morrison makes it clear that the child doesn’t forget the wrong doing. In Tar Baby, Margaret abuses Michael out of vain as Louis does in God Help the Child. However, in Beloved, Beloved is murdered in hopes that she won’t have to endure the pain of slavery; Beloved still returns to haunt her family (she doesn’t forget what her mother has done).

Toni Morrison’s novels follow characters on journeys of self-discovery. In Tar Baby, Son and Jadine, once together, learn who they are and they’re not willing to do; give up their life for change. In Beloved, unfortunate characters find their way through slavery and find ways to survive. In Song of Soloman, Soloman realizes that running from his own painful past wasn’t done without inflicting pain on another; he had to leave his wife behind in his escape from slavery. In Jazz, the characters of color work to make a life for themselves in a land that doesn’t want to accept them or regard them with any worth. In The Bluest Eye, Pecola goes on a journey of fulfilment; she searches for a way to be beautiful while finding out along the way, that changing her appearance won’t have an effect on the plagues clouding the minds of the fare skinned people around her.

In many of her novels, Toni Morrison explores the same themes and environments, so as to fully get her points across and accurately highlight wrongdoings as a means of insight and improvement. The most prevalent of her recurring themes are racial divisions, child abuse, and self discovery, all which she implores by means of character choice, setting, and the physical vs. spiritual worlds.  


Works Cited:

Wilfred D. Samuels. “Folklore as Matrix for Cultural Affirmation in Tar Baby.” Toni Morrison. Boston:

Twayne Publishers, 1990. 79-93. Twayne’s United States Authors Series 559. Twayne’s

Authors on GVRL. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.


Turner, Darwin T. “Theme, Characterization, and Style in the Works of Toni Morrison.”Discovering

Authors. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Student Resources in Context. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.


Rayson, Ann. “Foreign Exotic or Domestic Drudge? The African American Woman in

Quicksand and Tar Baby.” Gale Student Resources in Context. Detroit: Gale, 2007. Student

Resources in Context. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.


Lempke, Susan Dove. “* Virginia Hamilton Bruh Rabbit and the Tar Baby Girl.” The Horn Book

Magazine Jan.-Feb. 2004: 94+. General OneFile. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.

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