TONI MORRISON DISCUSSION GUIDE
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The second of the four children of George and Ramah (Willis) Wofford, Toni Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, a steel town twenty-five miles west of Cleveland. During the worst years of the Great Depression, her father worked as a car washer, a welder in a local steel mill, and road-construction worker, while her mother, a feisty, determined woman, dealt with callous landlords and impertinent social workers. "When an eviction notice was put on our house, she tore it off," Morrison remembered, as quoted in People. "If there were maggots in our flour, she wrote a letter to [President] Franklin Roosevelt. My mother believed something should be done about inhuman situations."
In an article for the New York Times Magazine, Morrison discussed her parents' contrasting attitudes toward white society and the effect of those conflicting views on her own perception of the quality of black life in America. Ramah Wofford believed that, in time, race relations would improve; George Wofford distrusted "every word and every gesture of every white man on Earth." Both parents were convinced, however, that "all succor and aid came from themselves and their neighborhood." Consequently, Morrison, although she attended a multiracial school, was raised in "a basically racist household" and grew up "with more than a child's contempt for white people."
After graduating with honors from high school in 1949, Toni Morrison enrolled at Howard University in Washington, DC. Morrison devoted most of her free time to the Howard University Players, a campus theater company she described as "a place where hard work, thought, and talent" were praised and "merit was the only rank." She often appeared in campus productions, and in the summers she traveled throughout the South with a repertory troupe made up of faculty members and students.
Morrison earned her BA degree in 1953 and then went on to Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York, for graduate work in English. In 1955, on submission of what she later called a "shaky" thesis on the theme of suicide in the works of William Faulkner and Virginia Woolf, Morrison received an MA degree. After two years of teaching English "theory, pronunciation, and grammar" to undergraduates at Texas Southern University, in Houston, she joined the faculty of Howard University as an English instructor, a post she held until 1964. While at Howard, she met and married a Jamaican architect with whom she had two sons, Harold Ford and Slade Kevin.
Unhappy in her marriage, Morrison began to write fiction in the early 1960s as an escape of sorts. "It was as though I had nothing left but my imagination," she said in an autobiographical sketch submitted to Current Biography. "I had no will, no judgment, no perspective, no power, no authority, no self, just this brutal sense of irony, melancholy, and
1 a trembling respect for words. I wrote like someone with a dirty habit. Secretly. Compulsively. Slyly." She eventually drifted into a small, informal group of poets and writers who met once a month to read, discuss, and criticize each other's work. For a while, Morrison took the "old junk" that she had written in high school, but one day, finding herself without a sample of writing to take to the meeting, she dashed off "a little story about a black girl who wanted blue eyes," which was the genesis of her first novel.
In 1964, Morrison resigned from Howard and, after a divorce, moved with her children to Syracuse, New York, and then to New York City, where she worked as an editor for Random House. There, partly to alleviate her loneliness, she developed the short story she had written at Howard into a novel, and in 1969, Holt published The Bluest Eye, the story of two young sisters living in a tiny, provincial black community in Ohio in 1941 and of their friendship with Pecola Breedlove, a homely, outcast little girl so mercilessly victimized by her parents and narrow-minded neighbors that she eventually retreats into insanity.
Described by Toni Morrison as a book about "the absolute destruction of human life because of the most superficial thing in the world - physical beauty," The Bluest Eye is, on one level, a treatment of the universal theme of the loss of innocence and, on another, an indictment of the physical and emotional poverty of middle-class black life during World War II. "Morrison exposes the negative of the Dick-and-Jane-and-Mother-and-Father-and-Dog-and-Cat photograph that appears in our reading primers, and she does it with a prose so precise, so faithful to speech, and so charged with pain and wonder that the novel becomes poetry," John Leonard wrote in his review for the New York Times (November 13, 1970). "I have said 'poetry.' But The Bluest Eye is also history, sociology, folklore, nightmare, and music."
The Bluest Eye established Morrison as a brilliant observer of contemporary black America, and she was often asked to write social commentary for mass-market publications. As a senior editor at Random House she took a special interest in black fiction. "I want to participate in developing a canon of black work," she told Sandra Satterwhite in an interview for the New York Post. "We've had the first rush of black entertainment, where blacks were writing for whites, and whites were encouraging this kind of self-flagellation. Now we can get down to the craft of writing, where black people are talking to black people."
Toni Morrison's own writing career took another step forward in late 1973, with the publication of Sula, an examination of the intense, forty-year friendship between two women: Nel, who accepts the conventional mores and rigid moral code of the insular black community that is her hometown, and Sula, who defies them. Much of the largely favorable critical response to Sula focused on Morrison's spare, precise language, economical, life-like dialogue, and convincing characterizations. To Sara Blackburn, who reviewed Sula for the New York Times Book Review, the main characters seemed "almost mythologically strong and familiar" and had the "heroic quality" of the characters of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Other reviewers, including Ruth Rambo McClain in Black World, Jerry H. Bryant in the Nation, and Faith Davis in the Harvard Advocate, seconded Blackburn's assessment and singled out for special praise Morrison's masterful creation of Sula, a complex woman who is at once self-reliant, amoral, predatory, alluring, and ruthless.
For Jonathan Yardley, the most fully realized character in Sula was the tiny black community of Bottom. "Toni Morrison is not a Southern writer, but she has located place and community with the skill of a Flannery O'Connor or Eudora Welty," Yardley commented in the Washington Post. "Thus the novel is much more than a portrait of one woman. It is in large measure an evocation of a way of life that existed in the black communities of the small towns of the 1920s and 1930s, a way of life compounded of such ingredients as desperation, neighborliness, and
2 persistence." Sula was named an alternate selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club and was nominated for the 1975 National Book Award in the fiction category.
Morrison's third novel, Song of Solomon (1977), the personal odyssey of Macon Dead Jr., presented a different kind of challenge. "I had to think of becoming a whole person in masculine terms," she explained to Mel Watkins for a New York Times Book Review profile. "I couldn't use the metaphors I'd used describing women. I needed something that suggested dominion - a different kind of drive." The central metaphor in Song of Solomon is flying - the literal taking off and flying into the air, which is everybody's dream." Inspired by his great-grandfather Solomon's escape from slavery a century earlier, Macon, known as Milkman because his mother nursed him well past infancy, leaves his middle-class Midwestern home for the South, ostensibly to search for a secret cache of gold, but ultimately to find his family heritage.
Song of Solomon was inevitably compared to Ralph Ellison's classic Invisible Man, to Alex Haley's Roots, and to Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior. A few reviewers quibbled about the occasional vanished character and the myriad subplots; most, however, were overwhelmingly enthusiastic. Perhaps the most rapturous was John Leonard, who declared in his paean for the New York Times that Song of Solomon had been "a privilege to review." He was particularly taken by the evocative, poetic descriptions of places "where even love found its way with an ice pick" and where the "heavy, spice-sweet smell . . . made you think of the East and striped tents and the sha-sha-sha of leg bracelets." "From the beginning . . . Toni Morrison is in control of her book, her poetry," Leonard wrote. "Out of the decoding of a children's song, something heroic is regained; out of terror, an understanding of possibility and a leap of faith; out of quest, the naming of our fathers and ourselves." In 1978, Song of Solomon received the National Book Critics' Circle Award as the best work of fiction in 1977. It was the first novel written by a black author to be chosen as a full selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club since Richard Wright's Native Son in 1940.
Morrison's Tar Baby (1981) is cast in the form of allegory. It begins on a French island in the Caribbean, at the home of a wealthy white man, Valerian, and his wife, Margaret. The pair have black servants, including a couple, Sydney and Ondine, whose light-skinned daughter – Jadine - has been sent by Valerian to study at the Sorbonne. A beauty and model, Valerian's creation, Jadine has little relation to her black heritage. The edgy tranquility of the house is suddenly disrupted by the appearance of a young runaway black man, Son, who suggests a primitive black past. Jadine and Son attempt to relate to each other but cannot. The novel thus becomes an exploration of the boundaries white society has created between black men and women. Reviewers generally praised Tar Baby as a novel of ideas, with Wilfred Sheed mentioning "the thrumming poetry, the animistic sense that clouds and trees are onto something big," but faulting the stereotypical characters and the too-obvious political message.
With Beloved (1987), Morrison's next novel, her reputation soared again. Margaret Atwood, writing in the New York Times Book Review, was highly impressed by this tale of a runaway slave, Sethe, who is forced to kill her two-year- old daughter in order to escape recapture. Later, a young woman, who does not know where she comes from and who calls herself Beloved, appears and attaches herself to Sethe. According to Atwood, Morrison's "versatility and technical and emotional range appear to know no bounds." She added: "Through the different voices and memories of the book . . . we experience American slavery as it was lived by those who were its objects of exchange."
Calling the novel "a masterpiece," Walter Clemons in Newsweek (September 28, 1987) remarked that "Morrison casts a formidable spell. The incantatory, intimate narrative voice disarms our reluctance to enter Sethe's haunted house." Stanley Crouch, writing in the New Republic, however, differed with the chorus of lavish praise, saying that Beloved "is designed to placate sentimental feminist ideology and to make sure that the vision of black woman as the most
3 scorned and rebuked of the victims doesn't weaken." Beloved was eventually adapted to the big screen in 1998 by Oprah Winfrey, who served as the film's star and producer. In May 2006, the New York Times editors designated Beloved as the best American novel published in the previous twenty-five years.
Jazz (1992), published by Morrison prior to her winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, has a historical - but more recent - setting. The book, whose action takes place in Harlem in 1926, has characters - a door-to-door salesman, who murders his young lover, and his wife, who disfigures the corpse - who seem controlled by circumstance. Edna O'Brien in the New York Times Book Review (April 5, 1992, on-line) called them "people who are together simply because they were put down together." O'Brien, although she praised Morrison's virtuosity, complained that she "hesitates to bring us to . . . a predicament that is both physical and metaphysical, and which in certain fictions, by an eerie transmission, becomes our very own experience. Such alchemy does not occur here." Jane Mendelsohn in the Voice Literary Supplement, on the other hand, remarked that the novel "replays the old plot of rupture and reconciliation and still it surprises, lifting at the end to a moment of beauty."
It was the beauty of Morrison's language that won her the Nobel Prize in 1993: "She delves into the language itself, a language she wants to liberate from the fetters of race. And she addresses us with the luster of poetry," the Swedish Academy declared in its citation. Morrison, in turn, brought the Academy and assembled guests to their feet when she delivered her lecture, one that was compared to William Faulkner's. In what the New York Times reporter John Darnton described as "a lovingly wrought paean to language and to the sublime vocation of 'word work,'" she declared: "We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives."
Critical reaction, however, was decidedly more mixed for Paradise (1998), Morrison's eagerly anticipated seventh novel. The book, which is set during the 1970s, explores gender and racial tensions between the men in the fictional all-black town of Ruby, Oklahoma, and the women in a nearby convent, several of whom are eventually murdered. In a review for the New York Times (January 6, 1998), Michiko Kakutani opined, "Paradise . . . addresses the same great themes of her 1987 masterpiece, Beloved: the loss of innocence, the paralyzing power of ancient memories and the difficulty of accepting loss and change and pain." She continued: "Unfortunately, Paradise is everything that Beloved was not: it's a heavy-handed, schematic piece of writing, thoroughly lacking in the novelistic magic [she] has wielded so effortlessly in the past. It's a contrived, formulaic book that mechanically pits men against women, old against young, the past against the present." On the other hand, Richard Eder, writing for New York Newsday (January 11, 1998), touted Paradise as "a fascinating story, wonderfully detailed by Morrison's shrewd and vivid portraits of Ruby's citizens and forebears," adding that, "Her town is the stage for a profound and provocative debate - always personified and always searching - about black identity and destiny in America's past and present." Paradise, a New York Times best seller, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize (1999) and International Impac Dublin Literary Award (2000).
Morrison's next book, Love (2003), which spanned thirty years and evoked comparisons to Faulkner, revolved around the late Bill Cosey, the charismatic owner of a seaside resort for black people, and the emotional relationships that develop between the many women in his life. In 2004, Morrison published the historical novel Remember: The Journey to School Integration. A record of black students experiences during the integration of the American school system using historical photographs alongside fictional text, Remember earned Morrison the 2005 Coretta Scott King Award. Morrison then tackled the topic of slavery again with A Mercy (2008), which she billed as a 'prelude' to Beloved. Set in seventeenth-century America, the tale of a mother who sells her daughter to a farmer in the hope of giving her child a better life was named among the Ten Best Books of 2008 by the editors of the New York Times Book Review.
Morrison published her tenth novel, Home, in 2012. Set in the 1950s, Home follows the journey of a Korean War veteran as he travels back home to Georgia to save his sister from eugenics experimentations at the hand of a white doctor. Her next novel, God Help the Child (2015), explores the childhood traumas inflicted on a young woman by her family for being dark-skinned born to light-skinned parents.
Morrison also authored several children's books with her younger son, Slade, including The Big Box (1999), The Book of Mean People (2002), The Ant or the Grasshopper? (2003), and Please, Louise (2014). She also wrote lyrics for music by Andre Previn and Richard Danielpour. In 2012, Morrison was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. Morrison was also the recipient of several other honors, including the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction (2016); Library of Congress Creative Achievement Award for Fiction (2011); Officier de la Legion d'honneur (2010); National Humanities Medal (2000); Library of Congress Bicentennial Living Legend award (2000); National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters (1996); Rhegium Julii Prize for Literature (1994); Pearl Buck Award (1994); and Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters, Paris (1993). Additionally, she was a trustee of the New York Public Library who served on American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Council on the Arts, among others. In 2019, the documentary Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, which examines Morrison’s life and prominent works, was released to critical acclaim.
Morrison served as a visiting lecturer at Yale University and other colleges, and from 1987 to 2006 she was a Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Council of the Humanities at Princeton University. She taught Studies in American Africanism, creative writing workshops, and courses on the works of such black women writers as Angela Davis, Alice Walker, Gwendolyn Brooks, Bessie Head, and, occasionally, Toni Morrison. She felt a special kinship with the Latin American authors Garcia Marquez and Miguel Asturias because they effectively combine myth and political sensitivity. She also expressed admiration for Nadine Gordimer and Eudora Welty because those two women, in her words, "write about black people in a way that few white men have ever been able to write. It's not patronizing, not romanticizing. It's the way they should be written about."
Morrison died on August 5, 2019, in New York City, following a brief illness. She was eighty-eight years old.
Biography Reference Bank, “Toni Morrison.” Available here with Geneva Library Card.
The Bluest Eye (1970)
1. The novel opens with an excerpt from an old-fashioned reading primer. The lines begin to blur and run together --- as they do at the beginning of select chapters. What social commentary is implicit in Morrison's superimposing these banalities describing a white family upon the tragic story of the destruction of a young Black girl? How does Morrison's powerful language --- both highly specific and lyrical --- comment on the inadequacy of "correct" English and the way in which it masks and negates entire worlds of beauty and pain?
2. "Quiet as it's kept, there were no marigolds in the fall of 1941. We thought, at the time, that it was because Pecola was having her father's baby that the marigolds did not grow." With these lines, Morrison's child narrator, Claudia MacTeer, invites the reader into a troubling community secret: the incestuous rape of her 11-
year-old friend, Pecola Breedlove. What are the advantages of telling Pecola's story from a child's point of view? Claudia would appear to connect the barrenness of the land to Pecola's tragedy. In what ways does Morrison show how Pecola's environment --- and American society as a whole --- are hostile to her very existence?
3. The title of the novel refers to Pecola Breedlove's intense desire for blue eyes. She believes herself ugly and unworthy of love and respect, but is convinced that her life would be magically transformed if she possessed blue eyes. How does racial self-loathing corrode the lives of Pecola and her parents, Cholly and Pauline Breedlove? How does racial self-hatred manifest itself in characters like Maureen Peal, Geraldine and Soaphead Church?
4. The novel is set in a Midwestern industrial town, Lorain, Ohio, Morrison's own birthplace. Pauline and Cholly Breedlove are transplanted Southerners, and several key scenes in the novel are set in the South. How does Morrison set up comparisons between a Northern Black community and the Southern Black way of life? What values have been lost in the migration north?
5. THE BLUEST EYE was published in 1970. At the time Morrison was writing the novel, the racist society that condemned Pecola Breedlove was still very much in place, and Morrison took great risks --- both within the Black community and American society as a whole --- to tell this important story. While advances in civil rights and racial attitudes have been made in the intervening years, it is arguable that many of the core issues so vividly evoked in the novel remain. What evidence is there that racial self-hatred continues to ruin lives? What present-day cultural factors could contribute to tragedies like Pecola's?
6. The novel begins by telling the reader that the Bottom, the neighborhood above Medallion, will soon be gone, replaced by the Medallion City Golf Course. How does knowing that the Bottom will soon be gone influence the rest of the novel? How does this description imply that things are not what they appear to be on the surface?
7. What are some possible reasons Eva's decision to go downstairs and light the fire, "the smoke of which was in her hair for years"? How does this make you feel about her character? Was this an act of sacrifice or selfishness? Can Eva be described as "good" or "bad"?
8. Eva gave her children to a neighbor and returned 18 months later, minus one leg. What is the possible symbolic significance of Eva's missing leg? How does it tie into the theme of deceptive appearances in the novel?
9. The novel takes place over the course of 45 years. How do relations between the races change over the course of the novel? How are the inhabitants of the Bottom and Medallion changed by what's going on in the world around them?
10. Sula and Nel become friends and later seem to be each other's alter egos. How does Nel's decision to marry inform Sula's life? How does Sula's leaving influence Nel?
Song of Solomon (1977)
11. Discuss Morrison's treatment of flight and what it represents (i.e., both abandonment and freedom). How does Morrison's use of flying place her work in the genre of magical realism?
12. Much of Morrison's work deals with the search for identity and particularly how slavery degrades self-identity, strips it from the soul. Talk about the importance of identity and how family history plays a role in defining the self. What does it mean to be without family history or self-knowledge?
13. Oppression is a strong motif throughout this work. What kinds of oppression do the characters experience?
14. Characters have Biblical names, which relate them to a transcendent, universal pattern of experience, a pattern that surpasses time and place. What parallels do you see between this story and the stories of the Old Testament?
15. Discuss the role that songs play in this work. Historically, Black communities used songs as a form of oral history. Do you see that reflected here?
Tar Baby (1981)
16. What is the significance of the title? How does it call back to the traditional folk tale?
17. Discuss the themes of parenting in the novel. How do you feel about parents in this novel, and the decisions they made when raising their children?
18. Which is more significant in the novel: class or race? Why do you think one is more important?
19. What is the significance of Jadine’s trip to Eloe? How does she react, and what effect does it have the course her life takes?
20. Morrison includes elements of myth in Tar Baby. How does this affect the overall novel?
21. Discuss the different roles of the community in betraying and protecting the house at 124. What larger issue might Morrison be suggesting here about community.
22. Talk about the choice Sethe made regarding her children when schoolteacher arrives to take them all back to Sweet Home. Can her actions be justified—are her actions rational or irrational?
23. What does Beloved's appearance represent? What about her behavior? Why does she finally disappear—what drives her departure? And why is the book's title named for her?
24. Consider the extent to which slavery dehumanizes individuals by stripping them of their identity, destroying their ability to conceive of the self. Consider, especially, Paul and how he can't determine whether screams he hears are his or someone else's. How do the other characters reflect self-alienation?
25. What does the narrator mean by the warning at the end: this is not a story to pass on." Is he right...or not?
26. How do plot and form and style inform each other in this book? This is a question that can be asked of any novel, but Jazz makes this question particularly interesting.
27. Other than mentions and descriptions of jazz music throughout the book, is there something more going on with the books connection to the musical form? What about the larger idea of the Jazz Age?
28. Harlem is a name that rings out now, and it rang out then. People from all over the world, when you say the word “HARLEM,” have an immediate reaction and conjure immediate images. How does your personal image coincide or diverge from Morrison’s depiction?
29. How do flashbacks fill in the bio’s of each character? How do these flashbacks change your opinions/thoughts on the character’s present places?
30. Who is the narrator? Who is the narrator talking to? How did Jazz break the rules in terms of traditional narrative structures?
31. Why has Toni Morrison chosen to use the poem "for many are the pleasant forms..." as an epigraph for this novel?
32. How has the history of Ruby (and Haven before it) shaped the nature of the town in the 1970s? What did "freedom" mean to the original settlers? What varying views of freedom do the modern inhabitants of Ruby hold?
33. The conservative elements in Ruby ultimately find it impossible to keep the impact of the Sixties from affecting their town. What "Sixties" ideas turn out to be the most powerful, the most resonant, for the people of Ruby? Do these ideas destroy the town's social cohesion or give it new strength?
34. Is it fair to say that the people of Ruby have perpetuated racism in the town that was supposed to be a haven from it? If so, in what does the town's racism consist?
35. What is the meaning of the novel's title? What does "Paradise" mean within the context of the book? "How exquisitely human was the wish for permanent happiness, and how thin human imagination became trying to achieve it, " thinks Misner. Does Morrison imply that it is impossible to create a paradise on earth?
36. Why has Toni Morrison chosen Love as the title for her novel? In what ways is the book about love? What kinds of love affect and afflict its characters? What does the novel, taken as a whole, suggest about the nature of love?
37. The main narrative of Love is framed by, and interspersed with, L's italicized reflections. Why does Morrison use this framing device? How does it affect the way the book is read? Is L's interpretation of events the most reliable one? From what vantage does she speak?
38. L says that Mr. Cosey, in the way he ran his hotel, "wanted a playground for folk who felt the way he did, who studied ways to contradict history." (p. 103) How does Mr. Cosey "contradict history"? What history, specifically, does he contradict? What makes his hotel so attractive to blacks in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s? Why does his hotel ultimately fail?
39. What destroys the friendship between Heed and Christine and turns them into the bitterest of enemies? What enables them to be reconciled to each other at the end of the novel?
40. What does Love, as a whole, suggest about the relationships among history, family, race, and gender? How are the individuals in the novel affected by these larger forces? What does the novel reveal about the particular historical moment in which it is set?
A Mercy (2008)
41. Florens addresses her story to the blacksmith she loves and writes: "You can think what I tell you a confession, if you like, but one full of curiosities familiar only in dreams and during those moments when a dog's profile plays in the steam of a kettle" (page 3). In what sense is her story a confession? What are the dreamlike "curiosities" it is filled with?
42. A Mercy is told primarily through the distinctive narrative voices of Florens, Lina, Jacob, Rebekka, Sorrow, and, lastly, Florens's mother. What do these characters reveal about themselves through the way they speak? What are the advantages of such a multivocal narrative over one told through a single voice?
43. Jacob Vaark is reluctant to traffic in human flesh and determined to amass wealth honestly, without "trading his conscience for coin" (page 28). How does he justify making money from trading sugar produced by slave labor in Barbados? What larger point is Morrison making here?
44. Rebekka knows that even as a white woman, her prospects are limited to "servant, prostitute, wife, and although horrible stories were told about each of those careers, the last one seemed safest" (pages 77–78). And Lina, Sorrow, and Florens know that if their mistress dies, "three unmastered women … out here, alone, belonging to no one, became wild game for anyone" (page 58). What does the novel as a whole reveal about the precarious position of women, European and African, free and enslaved, in late-17th-century America?
45. What role does the love story between Florens and the blacksmith play in the novel? Why does the blacksmith tell Florens that she is "a slave by choice" (page 141)?
46. The race of the characters is not specified in the novel. How does Morrison make clear which characters are black and which are white? Why might she have chosen not to identify characters explicitly by their race?
47. What is the effect of alternating between Frank’s first-person (italicized) narration and the third-person omniscient narration through which most of the story is told? What is the implied relationship between Frank and the narrator?
48. How have Miss Ethel and the other women in her community learned not just to live with but to rise above the limitations imposed on them? What moral code do they live by?
49. The flowering lotus is a plant of extraordinary beauty, but it is rooted in the muck at the bottom of ponds. In what ways is the fictional town of lotus, Georgia, like a lotus plant?
50. Much has been written about racism in America. What does Home add to our understanding of the suffering blacks endured during the late 1940s and early ‘50s? What is most surprising, and distressing, about the story Morrison tells?
God Help the Child (2015)
51. Multiple themes weave through the novel: childhood trauma, racism, skin color, social class, freedom. What would you say is the primary theme, and why?
52. Several of the primary characters have different names from the ones they received at birth: Bride, Sweetness, Rain. What do these new names tell us about the characters?
53. At different points in the novel, Morrison switches from individual characters’ voices to third-person narration. How does this affect the reader’s understanding of what’s happening?
54. The reader’s understanding of Booker is shaped by Bride’s recollection of his saying, “You not the woman I want,” her limited insights about him, and Brooklyn’s descriptions of him as a shady character. But in Part III we learn that he’s quite different from what we’ve imagined. What point is Morrison making here?
55. On page 180, Morrison describes Bride and Booker’s thoughts about the future: “A child. New life. Immune to evil or illness, protected from kidnap, beatings, rape, racism, insult, hurt, self-loathing, abandonment. Error- free. All goodness. Minus wrath. So they believe.” What do those last three words mean?
Questions collected from: www.llitlovers.com, www.readinggroupguides.com, www.penguinrandomhouse.com, www.bookpeopleblog.com, and www.novelguide.com.