Graduation Year

2010

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

English

Major Professor

Gurleen Grewal

Co-Major Professor

Shirley Toland-Dix

Committee Member

Hunt Hawkins

Keywords

patriarchy, oppressive language, empowerment, self-knowledge, Homi Bhaba, Judith Butler

Abstract

Toni Morrison’s Paradise deconstructs the pathology of patriarchy and its oppressive nature, which limits language and knowledge. Patriarchal language silences female voice as they unknowingly adopt male definitions of gender and femininity. As long as the women are denied access to a language that allows them to define themselves, their existence is marked by a perennial state of self-destruction and stasis. As the women, specifically Consolata, begin to reject patriarchal limitations, they gain agency and with it an access to words and ideas that allow them to identify and articulate their own definition of self.

Morrison’s Love illustrates the individual’s need to negotiate a language apart from the patriarchal narrative in order to heal. Love critiques the extreme and excessive ways in which people allow themselves to be taken over, not only by emotions, but also by social constructions of gender, race, and class. Morrison’s Love interrogates the same patriarchal narrative that renders characters ignorant of their own condition in Paradise; however, she approaches this critique from a different direction. While Paradise analyzes the damaging effects of an institutionalized patriarchal ideology adopted and enforced by an entire community by contrasting it with a community of women who reject this system of belief, Love illustrates the still pervasive vestiges of the organized patriarchal ideology apparent in Ruby. While the Convent women create a community that rejects racist, classist, institutionalized views of gender, the women in Love do not have a clearly defined group of oppressors to unite against. Theirs is an unconscious battle against fragmented notions of male control, which surfaces as fights against one another. The patriarch removed, Christine and Heed battle one another.

Within a framework of Bhabha’s Third Space, Butler’s gender continuum, and bell hook’s analysis of patriarchy and female relationships, I argue that Morrison’s Paradise and Love demonstrate the crippling effects of racist, sexist, classist discourses and the need to access a new, liberatory language in order to heal the pathological wounds of patriarchy.

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