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Motherhood and Matrophobia in Toni Morrison's Sula Literature Paper (Term Paper Sample)


This is a paper i wrote for my literary theory and criticism course in my graduate studies. I was tasked to make a comprehensive literary analysis of 3 novels each with a specific literary perspective. This particular paper analyzed the novel "usual" by toni Morrison, anchored on the concept of motherhood and matrophobia by adrienne rich.


Sula (1973) is a novel by Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison and is her second book to be published after her debut novel, The Bluest Eye (1970). Key features of Sula that emerge upon one’s first reading is the abundance of strong female characters in contrast to a few mostly insignificant men in the narrative. This is especially seen in the strong presence of matriarchs and mother-figures as opposed to patriarchs and father-figures (Eva and Hannah’s father; Helene and Nel’s father; Nel and Jude). As a novel about relationships, specifically mother and daughter relationships, Sula explores the dynamics of race, class, gender and its implications on family ties, of which I will reiterate based on the concept of motherhood and matrophobia in Adrienne Rich’s book Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution (1976) and in relation to Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble and the Subversion of Identity (1990).
Essentially, this paper seeks to explore the double roles of mothers as both oppressive and empowering forces in the construction of their daughter’s identity against the backdrop of absent and/or weak fathers in the broader sociopolitical context of a poor, but tightly-knit, community.
Sula generally follows a linear narrative, the only exception being at the beginning and end of the novel where the narrative shifts from the description of pre-Sula Bottom to the narration of its origins, and then to Shadrack, to the main narrative, and then to post-Sula Bottom. The novel is divided into two parts, and ten chapters whose titles correspond to the years of its occurrence – mainly 1919, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1927, 1937, 1939, 1940, 1941, and 1965.

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