Publication Date

Spring 2011

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

English

First Advisor

Christopher T. White, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Rashidah J. Muhammad, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Cheryl Hague, M.A.

Abstract

Implications of racial oppression on personal and collective African American identity formation in Toni Morrison’s trilogy are explored in this thesis. Morrison reconstructs African American history in her trilogy, but she also enacts a cultural healing through content and form. Impossible choices are made by characters in Beloved, Jazz, and Paradise who are influenced by the racial trauma they experience and inherit. The legacies of oppression--traumatic memories, fragmentation, stereotypes and negative associations—distort the way these characters view themselves and one another. They are disoriented, isolated, and displaced. Characters recover from their past trauma— together—when they share their stories. Invited in this healing process are readers who are forced by Morrison’s narrative techniques to experience fragmentation and displacement. Multiple endings, perspectives, and voices allow readers to share control of the narrative as they engage in understanding and interpreting the text. Readers find themselves forming relationships with texts that force them to make choices that reveal their own racial consciousness. Readers also remember what Morrison does not want anyone to forget: An untold history that includes the personal stories and experiences of ordinary African Americans.