Hunger "Beyond Appetite": Nurture Dialectics in Toni Morrison's Beloved

By Hichri, Asma | ARIEL, April-July 2013 | Go to article overview

Hunger "Beyond Appetite": Nurture Dialectics in Toni Morrison's Beloved


Hichri, Asma, ARIEL


Abstract: This paper traces the various manifestations of the hunger/ingestion motif in Beloved and its implications at the psychological and diegetic levels, mapping out the connection between hunger and storytelling as a form of resistance. At a deeper level, however, the novel also evinces how the hunger/ingestion dialectics inform not only African Americans' emotional and spiritual deprivation but also the diegetic in(di)gestion, disadjustments, and dis(re)memberment of their history and identity. By mapping out the fusion between the intra-diegetic and extradiegetic, this essay ultimately argues that Morrison's transgressive re-reading/rewriting of the imperial archive of black history and identity essentially requires both "a visceral reliving of [its] trauma[s]" (Young 9) and a parodic o/aural and narratological reinscription of its predatory patterns.

Keywords: Toni Morrison; Beloved; African-American fiction; hunger; appropriation

**********

Nurture dialectics are a central motif in Toni Morrison's fiction and, more specifically, in her novel Beloved (1987). From a cursory reading, the novel reveals the extent to which the African American experience of repression and dispersal has been informed by the dialectics of hunger, cannibalism, and appropriation. Yet a close reading of the narrative reveals that the dynamics of hunger and ingestion are not only physical and anthropological but also psychological and narratological. A thorough investigation of these dynamics therefore invites an exploration of nurture imagery in the novel as well as its sociological, anthropological, historical, and narratological inscriptions. Images and scenes depicting food with its social and religious connotations abound in the narrative. Given food's association with communal gathering, nurture symbolises the entertainment and preservation of social relationships and the creation of new ties. Critics have mulled over the significance of food imagery and its social dimensions in the novel. Lynne Marie Houston argues that the tropes of food and hunger are deployed to "mark and define relationships," for "they often mediate or inform politics of race" (167). She also goes as far as to maintain that Morrisons characters sustain their relationship with and apprehension of the outside world "through food, through their reactions to hunger, and through the types of hunger they experience" (167). Houston finally interprets the characters' expressions of hunger as no more than outward manifestations of their sexual, emotional, and psychological deprivation, arguing that Morrison's metaphorical dramatisation of hunger "works so that the relationship of a character with food takes on some of the hidden fears and anxieties of the character's being or history" (166).

Yet approaching nurture dialectics in Morrison's novel from this perspective amounts to reducing the characters' coming to terms with their sexual and emotional impulses to a process of reverse sublimation, (1) whereby instead of transforming physical impulses into socially constructive achievements, the characters supplant one physical desire for another. In her essay, '"Apple Pie Ideology' and the Politics of Appetite in the Novels of Toni Morrison," parallel to Houston's reading, Emma Parker establishes a psychological link between hunger and African Americans' experience of oppression and deprivation (615). In Beloved, Parker argues, the returning ghost's ravenous desire for food "is only an extreme manifestation of the hunger, both literal and metaphorical, that all the characters in the book experience as part of the legacy of slavery" (616). More specifically, Parker dwells on the ways in which gender and race shape appetite, focusing on the significance of sugar as a "potent symbol" which, given its association with "stereotypes of femininity," often "acts as a signifier of race and gender power structures" in Morrison's text (614).

Other commentators offer historiographic elaborations on the themes of hunger and cannibalism in Morrison's fiction. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Hunger "Beyond Appetite": Nurture Dialectics in Toni Morrison's Beloved
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.