Toni Morrison Toni Morrisons cultural heritage continues to shape her life and writing. On February 18 th, 1931 (Shockley 112), baby Chloe Anthony Wofford was born in Lorain, Ohio to Ramah Willis Wofford and George Wofford, a shipyard welder (Draper 1422). Chloes grandparents lived with her family (Showalter 320). Despite the Great Depression of the 1930 s, Chloes family stayed close-knit and supported one another (Morrison Encarta). After graduating from Lorain High School in 1949, Chloe left for the then all-black Howard University (Gray b). While at Howard University she decided to change her name to Toni because Chloe was too hard for some people to pronounce (Draper 1422).
From there she moved on to Cornell where she studied English and in 1955 received her masters degree. (Gray b). Toni returned to Howard University in 1957 to teach English. While teaching at Howard she met a Jamaican architect named Harold Morrison. They married, had two sons, Harold Ford and Slade Kevin, then divorced in 1964 (Draper 1422). Morrison moved her sons to Syracuse, New York where she became an editor at Random House and began writing novels (Gray b).
Her novels have won and continue to win many awards, the most prestigious being the 1993 Nobel Prize for Literature (Caldwell 1). Since then Morrison started teaching at Princeton University in New Jersey and continues to write (MacDonald 4). Morrisons novels are influenced by her rich cultural heritage, family, and passion for education. The novel Sula is a direct product of Morrisons cultural heritage. As an African American woman who grew up in a culturally rich family Morrison brings culture to her characters and community in Sula. She brings more than just the culture of African Americans, but she also brings the culture of everyone els in American society.
These cultural aspects found in Sula are not always obvious; sometimes it simply appears as an issue of what is right and what is wrong. In the Bottom they used Sula as an example of wrong. No matter how sinful the citizens of Medallion became Sula remained a woman more sinful than any of them. She made them more comfortable with themselves with her lack of morals. When the word got out about Eva being put in Sunnydale, the people in the Bottom shook their heads and said Sula was a roach. Later, when they saw how she took Jude, then ditched him for others, and heard how he bought a bus ticket to Detroit (where he bought but never mailed birthday cards to his two sons), they forgot all about Hannah's easy ways (or their own) and said that she was a b -- .
Everybody remembered the plague of robins that announced her return, and the tale about her watching Hannah burn was stirred up again (Morrison 112). This sort of behavior is part human nature. Society likes to find people in situations worse than their own, but as Morrison said, One person cannot raise a child (World Essence). Sula was a product of Medallion. They created her.
Morrisons cultural influences constantly impact her writing. Morrisons writing is greatly influenced by her family. Her grandparents shared their jokes, lore, music, language, and myths of African American culture with Morrison when she was a young girl (Showalter 320). Her mother, a homemaker, believed strongly in equal rights for her four children (MacDonald 4). Her father, George, was very racist. Commenting on her fathers perception of white people, Morrison said, He simply felt that he was better, superior to all white people...
You know he didnt let white people in the house (Draper 1422). George felt there was probably no chance for racial harmony to prevail... and He preferred his children to have nothing to do with whites (MacDonald 4). In Sula, when Shadrach finds himself in a small bed after his injury and analyzes the meal before him. He notices...
the lumpy whiteness of rice, the quivering blood tomatoes, the grayish-brown meat... Thus reassured him that the white, the red and the brown would stay where they were-would not explode or burst forth from their restricted zones... (Morrison 8). This represents the general opinion of society most African Americans possessed in 1919. It also reflects the opinions George Wofford instilled in his children during the Great Depression. Morrison is weary of white people, though she is not a racist person.
She once said, I feel that white people will betray me; that in the final analysis, theyll give me up (Nobel Jet). Family impacts Morrisons reading as well as her personal beliefs. Morrison possesses an incredible passion for education. She graduated from Lorain High School with honors (Gray b). She goes through tons of research before writing her books. As an English teacher at Princeton she maintains her love of education and inspires her students (Caldwell).
Morrison enjoys reading books. In fact she rarely turns on the television. She told Time Magazine, I think of (television) as one of those fake fireplaces, always moving and always looking just the same (Gray a). Morrisons life is built on education and as a result so is her writing. Cultural heritage, family, and passion for education have become recurring themes in Morrisons novels as well as her life. Toni Morrisons Sula represents a culture of people not all that long ago.
Morrisons beliefs and the beliefs of her family have influenced her greatly. Toni Morrison is an example of how every child is a product of their culture, family, and education. 322.