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An Ecofeminist Reading on Toni Morrison’s Sula

Author XuXiaoLi
Tutor XuQingHong
School Anhui University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Sula ecofeminism patriarchal values anthropocentrism
Type Master's thesis
Year 2011
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Toni Morrison, an excellent American woman writer in the 20th century, was awarded Nobel Prize in literature in 1993 for her Beloved and became the first black woman writer in winning the prize. Her second novel Sula is her favorite one and the best to represent her writing styles and thoughts. Through the narration of the fates of three typical black women—va, Sula and Nel, the novel demonstrates under the triple oppression of sexism, racialism and classism, black women have experienced great hardships and misery in the process of searching for identity and struggling for freedom and equality. Shattering the image of stereotyped black women, Morrison addresses black women with strength, wisdom and rebellious spirit of exploring themselves. The novel explores various themes as racial discrimination, the self-growth, women friendship, marriage and sex, evil and goodness, modernity and convention, individual and community and etc.After its publication, Sula immediately attracts the attention of critics for its controversial protagonist—ula, unique narrative techniques and rich and profound themes. On the one hand, the foreign and domestic scholarship on Sula’s feminist consciousness appears in a great deal and some repetitions can not be avoided; on the other hand, Morrison’s ecofeminist concern for nature has seldom been studied. Based on the above research achievements and limitations, this thesis makes a tentative reading on Sula from the ecofeminist perspective to show Morrison’s ecofeminist consciousness and explore the deep literary value of the novel. This thesis intends to further the research on Toni Morrison and help readers understand her ecofeminist consciousness, which is enlightening and constructive in solving environmental crisis and current social issues.Ecofeminists claim that nature and women are in the "other" position and being oppressed and that the root cause of all oppression is hierarchy and anthropocentrism. Therefore, to solve ecological crisis and eradicate various social inequalities and oppression, they argue to combine feminist movement with ecological movement to challenge the patriarchal and anthropocentric ideology to construct a harmonious world.As a black woman writer, Morrison, in her novels, specially shows her concern for and reflection about the destiny of the black women, the African-American culture and their communities. Through the depiction of human domination over nature, men’s oppression of women and the white’s discrimination against the black, she reveals the great trauma of nature, women and the black caused by patriarchy and anthropocentrism. Morrison also proposes to take equality, independence, love and care as core values, and replace dualism and hierarchy in patriarchal values thus constructing a harmonious world.The whole thesis is divided into five parts:part one is a brief introduction to Morrison’s achievements in novels and offers a general review of scholarship on Sula at home and abroad. Critics have studied the novel on its structure, themes, writing characteristics, racial and feminist issues and etc. Based on their studies, this thesis attempts to deepen the understanding of the novel further by reading it from the new perspective of ecofeminism. Then the theory of ecofeminism is introduced briefly.To illustrate Toni Morrison’s ecofemist consciousness, the thesis is dwelled on the analysis of nature, women and community in Sula.Chapter two demonstrates the depiction of nature in Sula. Owing to the exploration and development of mankind, the environmental deterioration of nature in the novel brings about continuous disasters, plague and diseases. Morrison realizes that anthropocentric values are the root of human domination over nature and that human and nature are internally connected. Moreover, the natural images of water and plants in Sula with rich meanings reveal the affiliation between women and nature.Chapter three focuses on Morrison’s feminine theme in Sula to show her ecofeminist concerns. With the detailed reading of three main female characters:Eva, Sula and Nel and their fates, this chapter discusses the hardships they have experienced and the efforts they have made in the process of struggling against oppression and searching for self-identity.Chapter four is the ecofeminst reading of Sula from the layer of community. The relationship between the black men and women and the interpersonal relationship in the community are specially explored to construct new black communities.In the last chapter, this thesis comes to a conclusion based upon the foregoing chapters that Sula gives a full and profound expression of Toni Morrison’s ecofeminisit thoughts and shows her ecofeminist desire for the equal and harmonious relationship between human and nature, men and women, the white and the black, individual and the community.

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