Publication Date

Summer 2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

English

First Advisor

Rashidah J. Muhammad, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Rosemary Johnsen, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Amanda Athon, Ph.D.

Abstract

This study examines Alice Walker’s The Colored Purple and Toni Morrison’s Beloved as Neo-Slave Narratives. These extraordinary authors reveal slave history in their novels. Although these novels deal with neo-slave narratives, they closely identify with history of African American enslavement. Walker and Morrison express through their works the many ways African American women lived in bondage during slavery. Their characters speak volumes to the mis-treatment of African Americans.

Neo-Slave Narratives are contemporary works of fiction. Walker and Morrison have chosen to illustrate the horrors of slavery as it relates to African Americans. The novelists demonstrate the realities of slavery in America through the portrayals of their characters. Walker and Morrison’s novels depict the dehumanizing experiences African Americans suffered from their slave owners as well as family members. Walker’s main characters are two sisters, Celie and Nettie, who endure sexism and racism as if they are enslaved by white slave masters. Their slavery stems from male dominance by their step-father. Celie also suffers at the hands of her abusive husband. Morrison’s protagonist Sethe, in Beloved, is born a slave and escapes but yet eighteen years later she is still not free because of the psychological effects that stem from slavery. As a result, her mind is damaged and she lives in and out of reality.

The major point of my research explores the purpose of the authors’ usage of Neo-Slave Narratives in their fictional literary novels The Color Purple and Beloved. These prolific authors have a purpose for all of their literary works rather it is loosely based on someone’s life or an event from the past. According to author and critic, Bernard Bell, Neo-Slave Narratives are, “residually oral, modern narratives of escape from bondage to freedom” (289).Bell’s definition describes characters within a text that escape to freedom that were once in servitude. As I define what a “Neo-Slave Narrative” is, it is also important to define “Slave Narrative” as they are closely related. According to Henry Louis Gates, Jr, “The slave narrative is a unique creation in the long history of human bondage, designed by a small but exceptionally gifted group of men and women who escaped and who went on to write books about the severe conditions of their bondage” (xi). Gates describes how former slaves wrote books about their life of enslavement by the slave master.

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