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This chapter has been intended as an investigation of the concept of alienation in Mrs. Dalloway and Sula, with Morrison’s master’s thesis being a starting point. It should be concluded from what has been said above, that the difference between the two works is made explicit in each writer’s understanding

of the concept of boundary of self and the other: Woolf tightens it, while Morrison almost removes it. In Mrs. Dalloway, Clarissa feels self-contempt as a wife in heterosexual society, but she preserves her own place and retrieves the passion in the past through suicide of Septimus, her alter ego. On the other hand, Sula’s solitude, giving an incentive to desire others, can be a countermeasure against the binary opposition: self and the other, or life and death through her (dis)integrating.

As we have seen, each writer’s view of life and death is quite different;

however, there appears a common idea that a person’s life goes on as a part of others after his or her death. Clarissa thinks that her presence survives after death as a part of people or nature, like a mist which spreads over trees:

Did it matter then, she [Clarissa] asked herself, walking towards Bond Street, did it matter that she must inevitably cease completely; all this must go on without her; did she resent it; or did it not become consoling to believe that death ended absolutely?

but that somehow in the streets of London, on the ebb and flow of the things, here, there, she survived, Peter survived, lived in each other, she being part, she was positive, of the trees at home; of the house there, ugly, rambling all to bits and pieces as it was; part of people she had never met; being laid out like a mist between the people she knew best, who lifted her on their branches as she had seen the trees lift the mist, but it spread ever so far, her life, herself. (Mrs. Dalloway 9-10, emphasis mine)

In the same way, during the last scene in Sula, Nel realizes that for a long time she has missed not her husband but Sula, when she feels Sula’s presence “at the tops of the trees” (Sula 174). A fusion between self and the other which Morrison explores comes true only after death in Mrs. Dalloway.


1 I use the term “self” to refer to one’s ego, although I admit a developing distrust of the concept of it in the post-modern era. When I use the word, it is supposed to be not fixed but fluid, formed by comparison with the other.

2 It seems reasonable to suppose that the trend is derived from critics’

overemphasis on the “blackness” of Toni Morrison (and Morrison’s own hatred for being compared with other writers can be added to this, as we shall see later in next chapter).

3 In Sula, the meaning of an empty space might have different nuances from Mrs.

Dalloway in respect of race problem. For example, Patricia Mckee suggests a connection between an empty space and racial discrimination. Sula, according to Mckee, has a role in filling up the space in the black community. In this study, however, the main stress falls on a space as a solitude of a heroine Sula, not as a part of the black community, but as an individual.

4 See Claudia Tate 157. The fuller study of homosexuality in Sula lies outside the scope of this paper. For a discussion of Barbara Smith’s controversial essay on Sula as a lesbian novel, see Duvall (Identifying 52-62).

5 About controversial scene above, John Duvall says that they “enact a kind of symbolic mutual masturbation” (66). According to Barbara Hill Rigney, on the other hand, it is “a defloration ritual, like those performed in connection with

some historical matriarchal cultures” (Rigney 90). I agree with Lorie Watkins Fulton in thinking that “Morrison metaphorically buries the potential for a sexual relationship between her two characters” (Fulton 72).

6 How Septimus has suffered the agony of his secret love of Evans is a question which I want to keep beyond the scope of this present discussion.

7 Although Shadrack does not kill himself like Septimus, his ritual leads to accidental death of villagers in the end of the story. Katy Ryan suggests that the accident is a communal suicide as a protest. If we accept her plausible theory, it seems reasonable to support that Morrison depicts suicide in a figurative way in Sula.

Chapter 2

Dialectical Tensions between Conflicting Values and Emotions in Absalom, Absalom! and Song of Solomon

The works of William Faulkner are compared with Toni Morrison’s much more frequently than Virginia Woolf ’s.1 It is likely that critics keep exploring Morrison’s connection with Faulkner because they are encouraged both by Morrison’s favorable remarks on him2 and by their intuition that there is something in common between the two authors (in addition, there is no doubt that the fact that Morrison dealt with the works of Faulkner in her master’s thesis motivates them effectively, although her thesis has been regarded not as an important resource for her ideas about Faulkner but only as one of Morison’s personal history, in which critics find a valid reason for their studies comparing Morrison and Faulkner). To take a simple example, we find a similarity between characters in Song of Solomon and in Absalom, Absalom! Circe, a witch-like old woman who lives in her mistress’s mansion out of deep hatred for her, is a composite of Rosa and Clytie because those three are “grotesque” in the same way:

their fierce emotions of hatred, bizarre appearances in the creepy houses, and their roles as the (almost-ghost like) living embodiment of the past experiences of racial and sexual violence. We see that the grotesque is Morrison’s newly discovered feature which she shares with Faulkner, who is generally known as a writer in this mode.

In this chapter, I will deal with William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!

and Morrison’s Song of Solomon3 and demonstrate that conflicts between opposing elements function as a countermeasure against dominant values, in Morrison’s

words, “Master Narrative.” The fuller study of how Morrison rewrites The Sound and the Fury and Absalom, Absalom! that she dealt with in her thesis into Song of Solomon lies outside the scope of this study, because we need to focus on the problem of the grotesque, which will be discussed through dealing with how the two writers describe the conflicts between incompatible elements.4 As I said earlier in the introduction, the “clash of incompatible elements” (Corey 36) is a major characteristic of the grotesque. It is possible that the example of grotesque characters (Circe, Rosa and Clytie) shows the similarity on the outside;5 however, at deeper level, the way in which a character or a meaning wavers between paradoxical feelings or theories is identical in the two novels. On one hand, Rosa Coldfield in Absalom, Absalom! goes back and forth between patriarchal sense of values and her desires as an individual female; on the other, Milkman in Song of Solomon is placed in a dilemma between “both sides of the issue,” such as sky and soil, life and death, race and individual, or love and violence. We will find out that at the base of those incompatible elements lie conflicts between men and women in Song of Solomon. It is also interesting to note that Pilate is a literary descendant of Rosa because of their attempts at crossing the border between sexes, although they are very different types of characters.

The important point to note is that it is possible for Morrison not to notice the similarity between Faulkner and herself (the similarity which I will discuss in this chapter), because Morrison did not mention the dilemmas of Quentin Compson or Rosa Coldfield in her master’s thesis. This is another reason why we do not explore the problem of her rewriting Faulkner’s works in hers. We will deal with the two works separately, because I believe that it will show the complicated structure of the grotesque more effectively than referring to them alternately.

I Two Separate Rosas