English Literature Essays – Common Racial Themes

Common Racial Themes Shared in Faulkner and Morrison

In malice of obvious racial and gender differences between William Faulkner ( 1897-1962 ) and Toni Morrison ( 1931-present ) , both writers approach race as a agency of societal separation. American society throughout history has focused on such separations to set up a defined hierarchy, based both on race and gender. In Toni Morrison ‘s The Bluest Eye, race is used to take down black Americans ; criterions of beauty were based on what appeared to be the closest in resemblance to white Americans. Traditionally African characteristics such as wide olfactory organs and full lips were deemed unattractive and hence socially inferior, as evidenced by The Bluest Eye ‘s supporters with the fair-skinned Maureen Peal. William Faulkner ‘s Light in August attacks race as a agency of gendered power. Faulkner ‘s plants showcase the ambiguity in gender lines, and Light in August is no different. Miscegenation, a cardinal subject, canastas with gender differences in authorising white characters as masculine and black characters as altered. Joe Christmas, a character whose racial background is shrouded throughout most of the novel, is invariably berated and indirectly belittled by powerful white figures such as his stepfather and a ulterior lover. His decease, presented at the vertex of the novel ( besides co-occuring with confirmation of his mixed-race background ) , is most important in its portraiture of Joe Christmas ‘ emasculation and slaying at the custodies of governments.

The Bluest Eye

Morrison ‘s portraiture of race touches on several of import points reflecting the societal clime of the clip. First, being white is aesthetically more desirable than being black. Second, being black equivocates to hardship, and 3rd, being white transcends all facets of being black in the societal hierarchy.

Race and Ethnicity

Claudia and Frieda encounter the phenomena of racial aesthetics with the debut of Maureen Peal, a fair-complexioned black miss who, despite being born with an unusual sum of birth defects, is preferred by the black male childs and misss. Maureen is born with six fingers on each manus with somewhat noticeable stumps where her excess fingers used to be, a important mutant and something that would erstwhile gain her the cruel twit of most all the kids had it non been for her just tegument ( Morrison 63 ) . More noticeable is the disdain Maureen granaries from Claudia and Frieda, who take closer notice to her Canis familiaris tooth, enjoying what physical imperfectnesss they can happen ( Morrison 63 ) . If anything, the misss ‘ malice is a green-eyed monster harboured because they excessively desire to be as light-skinned and purportedly beautiful as Maureen. Further stressing the societal favor of white aesthetic high quality, Maureen denigrates Claudia, Frieda and Pecola, shouting that she is cunning [ and they are ] black and ugly black vitamin E minutes [ sic ] , presumptively distinguishing herself from the three by indicating out her equity in comparing to theirs ( Morrison 73 ) .


Other signifiers of childhood sodium & A ; Atilde ; ?vet & A ; Atilde ; © function to farther Morrison ‘s inexorable portraiture of black race as being synonymous with a life of adversity and lower status. Introducing Pecola in a narrative from Claudia ‘s position, Morrison demonstrates the perversion of a black society that would, in a fair-haired Baby Doll, body what grownups assume to be a kid ‘s fondest want ( Morrison 20 ) . Still worse is the exasperating tone Morrison evokes in her three supporters upon Mrs. Breedlove ‘s interaction with a white miss smaller and younger than them who refers to their revered materfamilias as merely Polly ; told from Claudia ‘s point of position, what infuriates the supporters and the reader is that non even the senior Pecola refers to Mrs. Breedlove by her first name ( Morrison 108 ) . Still more self-deprecating is Claudia ‘s implied realization that she is at the underside of the societal concatenation. Stuck below her female parent in age and black work forces in gender, she is farther demeaned when she realises the white miss ‘s transcendency of the black societal order wholly. As a immature, black adult female, Claudia sees how inferior even her ain people perceive her.

A Light in August


Unlike Morrison, Faulkner uses race as a agency of sexual authorization. For illustration, Joe ‘s feelings of self-hatred as a adult male of coloring material is reflected in his whipping of the shenegro in the barn, a agency of projection against the devils he faces as an adopted male child ( Faulkner 514 ) . As a black adult male, Christmas farther feels unequal and filled with self-deprecation. He is demeaned into emasculation under the sexually charged Miss Burden, a contemplation of black lower status to the white race in all interactions. Christmas ‘ emasculation is complete in his slaying at the custodies of Grimm, who shoots Christmas five times and so castrates him in a kitchen, a symbol of the delegating of inkinesss into servitude and impotence. Faulkner ‘s built-in message is that to be black is to be non merely socially inferior, but to besides be genderless and dehumanized, a fact evidenced by his most ghastly and agonizing decease. Though Joe Christmas is non perceptibly black as a merchandise of crossbreeding, he is forced into a black individuality by a society who will non accept a white adult male with even a bead of black blood in his line of descent.

Race and Ethnicity

Morrison and Faulkner both draw upon the unfairnesss of American racial dealingss in order to pass on his contempt for the establishment of racial favoritism. However, Faulkner is more fatalist in tone, arousing a mode of apathy and weakness at the state of affairs. Like Morrison, Faulkner demonstrates how racial association via medias character. Reverend Gail Hightower is shamed in society ab initio because of his married woman ‘s unfaithfulnesss ; nevertheless, what ostracizes him from the white community is a disdainful rumor that he, as a clergyman, had an matter with a black adult female. Peoples who wished to distance themselves from Hightower could non make so merely with the cognition that he was a cuckold ; alternatively, a far more negative rumor affecting sexual dealingss and possible crossbreeding was spread. Faulkner farther shows the power of racial separation in the indictment of Joe Christmas by Joe Brown, who is questioned by Hightower and the sheriff. Unable to rock them from presuming his guilt at the slaying of Miss Burden, Brown spitefully accuses the two of [ impeaching ] the white adult male seeking to assist [ them ] and allowing the nigga tally ( Faulkner 470 ) .


Faulkner, William. Novels 1930-1935: As I Lay Dying, Sanctuary, Light in August, Pylon. New York: The Library of America, 1985.

Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.