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Introduction: Morrison and the Maternal
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“My mother, when she would find out that they were not letting Black people sit in certain sections of the local theater, would go and sit in the white folks’ section, go see Superman just so she could come out and say, ‘I sat there, so everybody else can too.’ It’s a tradition …. It’s an old technique that Black people use—you know, the first one in the pool, the first one in the school ….” (Morrison in Con I, 134).
Toni Morrison’s interviews, of which there are many, show the way she reflectively comments on even the simplest—and most predictable—questions. Her interviews also show that she tends to answer her questioners with a narrative scene, as here, when she recalls her mother’s comparatively radical social behavior. What Morrison’s autobiography shows clearly is that she was the child of two strong and sensible parents. As Chloe Ardelia Wofford,1 “Toni Morrison” grew up aware of gender differences. But she also grew up relying on both her hard-working and carefully modulated father, George Wofford, and her equally hard-working but perhaps more flamboyant mother, Ramah Willis Wofford. It is the mother’s voice that Morrison creates in the early chapters of The Bluest Eye. Whether speaking or singing, Ramah Wofford gave her daughter, who was one of four children—two girls and two boys—an audible guide to expressing conscience.
Because Morrison’s fiction shows her even-handed presentations of both men and women (often,...
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