Discover yourself through your past
Morrison essay comments on the journey literature takes to find the self through individual liberation. White writers and black writers observe the city in different perspectives concerning the individual. He claims that American Black writer’s lack an ancestral connection in their writing. This claim is countered by the author Gloria Naylor.
Morrison claims that white writers are anti-urban and write about the individual freedom the city lacks. White writers observe and associate their characters with the country or nature. The character must be moved away from the urban surroundings and placed in the country to find himself. The primary objective for this character is to find satisfaction of self liberation in nature. Morrison claims, however, that this individual freedom cannot be fulfilled through the abandonment of the city. He claims the writers are not anti-urban, but rather anti-social. Morrison states the differences in black writers are in their observations with the city, but not as an urban setting, but rather a village.
The black writer’s view of the city differs. Morrison describes the writer’s intention and themes are based on the acceptance and integration of the black community into the city. He comments on Harlem as not a city, but as a village. He states, “ The hospitals, school, and buildings they lived in were not founded nor constructed by their own people, but the relationships were clannish because there was joy and protection in the clan” (38). It is through relationships the city becomes connective and alive.
Nature also has a connection to the Black writer as well. However, Morrison claims that unlike the white writers, the American Black writers lack an ancestral connection. He states, “ This missing quality in the city fiction is not privacy or diminished individual freedom, not even the absence of beauty…What is missing in the city faction and present in village fiction is the ancestor” (39). White writers believe that the self can be found in nature, but Morrison believes the self must be discovered in an ancestral character. There is a lack of connection to the root of the African America. Morrison claims that the wantonness of a character out of touch is the character out of touch with his ancestor (40). Morrison claims, “Contemporary Black writers seem to view urban life as lovable only when the ancestor is there” (40). This is not true, however, concerning the writings of Gloria Naylor
A counter to Morirson’s claim can be found in The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor. In her novel the character Maggie serves as the ancestral figure. This novel is far from a loveable perception of urban life. It allows the reader to experience the gruesome and harsh surroundings of a part of th city which is cut off from civilization. Maggie serves as a form of guidance and motherly figure. She embodies the past of these characters and attempts to direct them from their treacherous situations toward better choices. She is the voice of truth to the characters. Along with this ancestral model, Maggie, Naylor does not depict the city or the experiences of the characters to be loveable. They are quite the opposite. The presence of Maggie’s character is the presence of the past, but the author does not describe a utopia urban setting as Morrison claims.
The white writers created their characters and observation through a journey in self liberation of the city and social surroundings. This is the opposite view of the Black writer who demands that in society one can find his own individual freedom through the connection and relationships with the people around you. To do so you must discover yourself through a connection with your past.