The Apocalypse in African-American Fiction

By Maxine Lavon Montgomery | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6 Toni Morrison, Sula

As children of captivity we look forward to a new day and a new, yet ever old, land of our fathers, the land of refuge, the land of the Prophets, the land of the Saints, and the land of God's crowning glory. We shall gather together our children, our treasures and our loved ones, and, as the children of Israel, by the command of God, faced the promised land, so in time we shall also stretch forth our hands and bless our country.

Marcus Garvey, Speech delivered at Madison Square Garden, March 1924

Toni Morrison Sula is structured around catastrophes of various sorts, from individual deaths to the destruction of the Bottom, which is razed in order to make room for a golf course. With each of them there is a projected return to a mythic past--much like Marcus Garvey's idealized Africa--where there is community, harmony, and freedom. Drawing upon an African cosmological system, Morrison maintains that although life in modern America is chaotic, it is possible to escape life in the West and recover the time of the black community's non-Western beginnings.


Modern Chaos and Ancient Paradigms

The destruction of the Bottom, a black community located in the hills above the fictional town of Medallion, Ohio, is a central event in Toni Morrison Sula. With the collapse of a tunnel linking Medallion to a neighboring town and the leveling of the Bottom in order to make room for a golf course, the community appears to have reached its inevitable end. Those in the Bottom are attuned to natural phenomena and the socioeconomic influences circumscribing their lives. Natural disasters, unexpected deaths, and continued racist oppression serve as bitter reminders of the near-tragic dimensions of life, for to be black in America is to experience calamity as an ever-present reality, to live on the brink of apocalypse.

-74-

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The Apocalypse in African-American Fiction
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page ii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 Charles Chesnutt, the Marrow of Tradition 15
  • Chapter 2- Richard Wright, Native Son 28
  • Chapter 3 Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man 40
  • Chapter 4 James Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain 52
  • Chapter 5- Leroi Jones [imamu Amiri Baraka], The System of Dante's Hell 64
  • Chapter 6 Toni Morrison, Sula 74
  • Chapter 7 Gloria Naylor, the Women of Brewster Place 88
  • Notes 103
  • Bibliography 107
  • Index 111
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