Mythological Study in Toni Morrison’s Sula and Beloved

ABSTRACT :  Literature  depicts the culture of our society. There are many regional literatures which provide myths for further literature. This paper focus on mythological study in the context of afro- American roots in the Morrison’s novels. Myth is used as a device which contents historical events. This mythological analysis allow us to correlate the heritage of African culture in the perspective of characters, mythology is the body of traditional narratives that exemplifies and historicizes, ideology myths are stories drawn from history , that have acquired usage over many generation . This study focuses on the nobel laureate, who reveals her ideas through her fiction.

KEY WORDS: Myths, mythos, slavery, Beloved, African, American s, Sula.

PURPOSE OF PAPER: the purpose of the paper is to examine how Morrison creates humans sentiments through the history of past and culture, and of interrelation between past and present.

OBJECTIVES OF PAPER: the following major objectives have been formulated for the present study.

  • The study aims at finally out myth and folklore in the beloved and sula .
  • The study aims to touch the thought and experience of past.
  • The study measures the imagination.

METHODOLOGY: Hypothesis formation, Comparative method, Analytical method, Observation method.

FUNCTION OF MYTH: Myth provides historical stories , historical roots, and it explains natural phenomena compose supernatural stories about existential issues. (Creation and cosmic forces.)

MYTH: Myth is a system  of communication within given historical limits and specific social conditions as Barthes quote.

What the word supplies,  myth is a historical reality, defined, even this gives back quite a while nay the way in which men have provided or used it, and what natural image of this reality . And just as bourgeois ideology is defined as the abandonment of the name “ bourgeois” myth is constituted by the loss of the historical quality of things in it, things lose the memory that they once made. The word enters language as dialectical relation between activities, between humans actions, it comes out of myth as a harmonious display of essences. (117)

In myth anthropologists such as Claude levi strauss deals with resemblance in logical coherency analogous to pattern in linguistic discourage. Jung deals with myths as the archetypes of the collective unconscious. Further what myth dose for Barthes and other critics, who have collaborated the idea of myth as form of ideology, then is to naturalize events and subjects them to easy assimilation by the community. Myth can be stories about ancient events. It is re- reading, rewriting and recreating, if myth disappear, our literature lost its charm and existence.

The African American folklore is the basis of Morrison’s work which shape her novels. The familiar thing is the discerning the myths about black women’s sexuality, motherhood the myths of beauty. The oxford Dictionary defines myths as a “purely fictitious narratives usually involving supernatural person, action or events and embodying same popular idea concerned natural or historical phenomena……. Often used vaguely to include any narratives having fictitious elements.”

The Encyclopedia Britannica defines myth as: A story, usually of unknown origin and at least partially traditional, that ostensibly relates actual events to explains some practices , beliefs ,institution or natural phenomena and that is especially associated with religion rites and beliefs, with word mythology denotes both the corpus of myths in a particular culture or religion tradition.

STUDY OF SULA & BELOVED: History becomes mythical when it is related  to the secret springs of one’s the unconscious wisdom of traditions. Myth appears in her first five novels: The  Bluest Eyes (1970), Sula(1973), Song of Solomen (1977), Tar Baby (1981),and beloved(1987). She relies on two objects : myth and history. A linden peach puts it, “all her novels are in a sense historical novels as quasi – documentaries that bear historicals witness,” and that there is blurring of the boundaries between fantasy and reality between fact and fictions in M’s novels “(Peach 1998: 2-3)

Morrissons Sula is a novel with the tradition of African,American lit, exploring the legacy of the African diaspora through the images of loss and recovery. Sula opens with the description of “ the Bottom”, which has been bought by whites. The present study high light the social and historical condition of Toni Morrison’s black female characters as representatives as depicted in sula:

Toni Morrison is an important novelist……   part of her appeal of course lies in her extraordinary ability to create beautiful language and striking characters. However, Morrision’s most important gift, the one which gives her a major authors university, is the insight with which she writes of problems all humans face….. at the core of her novels is penetrating view of the unyielding,heart- breaking dilemma which torments people of all races.

Sula assures Morrison’s literary reputation. She expressed the social heritage of African American women and the psychological impact of slavery have held them captivated long after was abolished. Sula deals with friendship of Nel and sula and about  good and evil. Here we find a women who wants to create herself, sula creates one of the few black women’s heroines to deliberately embrace the role of pariah. The novels focuses on problems encountered by Afro- American girls growing up in a society that discriminates them on the basis of the colour of their skin.

Sula appeared in 1973 nominated for the national book award, set in black community in the Midwest called the bottom it centers on the relationship between sula and Nel from childhood to adulthood. Sula is dark character emotional defined by a sense of evil and physically defined by her “black colouring:

Sula was a heavy brown with large quite eye one of which featured is birthmark that spread from the middlemen of the lid toward the eyebrow, shaped something like a stemmed rose. It gave her otherwise plain face a broken excitement and…… The birthmark was to grow as the years passed, but now it was same shades as her gold flecked eyes.(52)

Sula developes her friendship with Nel at the age of twelve. Each girls receives love from the other . Sula’s life shaped by two occurance in her youth : the death of Chicken Little and the overheard conversation of her mother when she says, “ she does not really like her daughter,” (57) Morrision’s says “ yet sula and Nel are very much alike . They compliment each other. They support each other I suppose the two of them  together could have made a wonderful single human being.(253)Nel’s marriage to Jude to interrupt sula’s friendship like so many woman Morrision’s equates marriage with the death of the female self and imagination . Sula’s female heritage as an unbroken like of “man loving” women who exists as sexually describing subjects rather then as a objects of male desire. Sex for sula has nothing to do with love or even friendship : she uses men to full up the emptiness in her life. Sula “went to bed with men as frequently as she could (122) in he first sexual experience with Ajax, significant a reenactment of Hannah’s sexual rituals in the pantry, sula “stood wide-legged against the wall pulled from his track lean hip- all pleasure her things could hold.”(125)

Nel is obsessed with idea that Sula robbed of her something but corrects her in saying that Jude was not taken, he left. Death brings them  together again when when Nel comes to see Sula on her deathbed on any “good women” would do. Morrison stated: I wrote Sula, really , based on this theoretically brand new idea, which was: women should be friends with one another. And in the community in which I grew up, there were women who would choose the company of a female friend over a man, any time. They were really sisters in that sense.(14)

In the novel Beloved she explores the tragic  effect of slavery on men and women of black families and their community. The character sethe, is based on the real life story of the slave Margert Garner. On jan 28,1856 ,Garner killed her two year old daughter rather then have her sent back to slavery due to the fugitive slave law. In Beloved Sethe is prototype of Margaret Garner. She physically survives, she remains emotionally subjugated, and her desire to give and and receive love becomes a destructive force.  Both the works has taking cultural past and conditions of  the society.

CONCLUSION: Mythology is a collection of myths, especially one belonging to a particular religions or cultural tradition of a group of people. In both the novels  Morrison reveals situation from the past . history has a past whereas myth and folklore are ever present. In the modern age, they become powerful instruments in the preservation of both history and culture.


  1. Toni Morrison, “Roootedness: The ancestor as Foundation”, Black women writers(1950-1980).A Critical Evaluation,ed. Mari Evans(New York:Dobelday,1984)345.
  2. Elizabeth B House,”Toni Morrison.”ed.Karen L. Rood.Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook 1981(Detroit:Gale Research, 1982)118.
  3. Betty Parker, “Complexity: Toni Morrisons woman- An interview Essay’ “Sturdy black Bridges:visions of Black Women in Literature (new York:whitston, Garden City, Double Day,1979)253.
  4. Karen Carmean, Toni morrison’s World of Fiction, (New York: Whitston,1993)14.
  5. Toni Morriso,Sula(New York: vintage 2004) all subsequent reference to Sula are from this volume and included in the text.
  6. Oxford English Dictionary,3rd”myth ,n.Oxford university Press(Oxford)2003.

Sukhwinder Kaur, Adhyapak Sahayak (English), Gujarat Arts and Commerce College(Eve), Ahmedabad 

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