Toni Morrison Major Themes in Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

This shows how violence against women and rape are trivialized. It does not seem that rape and violence are accepted, but it does seem like they are tolerated. Further information is provided when Christine is described investigating why no action has been taken. The Comrade's account of the rape is described as follows, it wasn't his fault the girl was all over him braless sitting sloppy he'd even patted her behind to alert her to his interest she giggled instead of breaking his jaw and asked him if he wanted a beer (Morrison 156).

This description paints a picture of a naive girl being taken advantage of and then being blamed for the events. It is important to note that this description suggests that the girl was the one who should have stopped the rape from taking place by becoming violent. In reality, it seems that the man who is older should take responsibility and show self-control. It is also interesting to note that after this event, the student may react differently in a similar situation next time since she is now aware of the outcome. This occurs because she has now lost her naivety, and this reinforces the fact that young naive women are taken advantage of. This also shows how a culture of violence can be created, where the student in a similar situation may become violent. The question this raises is why rape can only be prevented if a woman becomes violent to physically stop it happening. The fact that women have little power against men is also reinforced by the way that Christine is powerless to do anything about the rape. As the text notes, she tells everyone and feels satisfied with the result. However, no action is taken against the rapist and everyone knowing about it does nothing to help the girl. The text also notes that no action is taken because "the girl's violation carried no weight against the sturdier violation of male friendship" (Morrison 156). This shows a situation where two males who are both in the wrong succeed, while the girl raped and Christine who is trying to help her are powerless. Clearly, it is men who have the power and women who are treated as if inferior. This shows the gender issues present in the society, with these gender issues creating a situation where violence against women is trivialized and tolerated.

The Role of the Father

The father is shown to be the major decision-maker in the family, while it is also shown that the father is not expected to take any real responsibility for the children or the family. The father as decision-maker is shown by the way that Bill Cosey has all the power in the family, with the other family members forced to live with his decisions. This is strongly suggested by the situation with May, who supports Cosey, her daughter, and the family, always trying to keep the family functioning. Despite all of her positive efforts, there is nothing May can do when Cosey decides to marry Heed. This shows that Cosey has all the power, while the other family members are powerless and have to live with the family he creates. At the same time, it is also seen that while Cosey has all the power, he does not take responsibility for that power and consider his decisions. It is seen that he acts on whims and puts his own needs first, never really considering the impact his decisions have on the family. He certainly never compromises his own needs for the good of the family. This is strongly suggested in the novel by the way that Cosey isn't even present in the novel, since it recounts the events after his death. Yet even when he has gone, his family have to continue to live with each other. In essence, his family members are left to live with the mess he created based on his own needs.

The role of the father is also seen in the way that Cosey treats Christine once he marries Heed. Christine is Cosey's granddaughter, so it would be expected that he would take on the role of a father figure in her life. However, instead of being a father to her, he puts his new wife first and sends Christine away. This is seen in the situation where May and Christine return to the house to find that Heed has set fire to Christine's bed. Christine and May expect Cosey to take action against Heed, but he laughs about it. May then points out how dangerous it is and says that something must be done, noting that it is dangerous for Christine to live like this. In this situation, it is clear that Heed is at fault and that Christine has become a victim to the situation. The expectation is that Heed will take the punishment. The major decision is described as follows,

He looked at May then, for what seemed an age, and nodded. "You may be right." Then, touching his mustache, "Is there somewhere she can go for a week or two?" (Morrison 135).

At this point, it seems that Cosey has seen reason and will deal with Heed. Instead, Cosey is surprised when May thinks he is talking about sending Heed away and reveals that he meant that Christine should leave. May argues that Heed started the fire and is the guilty one, while Christine is innocent. There is no argument against this point and the reader sees that May is correct. However, Cosey responds by saying that, "I'm not married to Christine, I married Heed" (Morrison 135). In saying this, there is no argument against the fact that Heed is to blame or against the fact that Christine is innocent. Instead, it is only a statement saying that Heed is now his wife and matters more than Christine. This shows that being a father to Christine does not matter. In effect, Christine becomes insignificant as soon as Cosey marries Heed, with Heed's position as wife making her more important. It is also made clear that Heed is more important regardless of how she acts, showing that Christine now is considered lesser in the family. This shows that a man's role as husband is far more important than his role as father. This is also reinforced by the way that Heed is being protected and has become the most important even though marrying her was a quick decision by Cosey and even though she has only been part of the family a short time. This shows that as a granddaughter, Christine's importance is trivialized, even though she has been a member of the family forever and Heed has only just become a family member. This clearly shows that the role of the father is limited, with a man as husband more important than a man as father. Finally, it must be noted that it is May who takes on the role or protecting her daughter. This suggests that it is the mother's responsibility to look after the children, not the father's.

The Role of Friendship

One of the interesting points made about friendship is the lack of friendship that exists in marriage. This is shown in the description of Christine meeting Ernest Holder. Morrison describes the meeting as follows,

Pfc. Ernest Holder had come to Manila's looking to buy some fun and found instead a beautiful girl in a navy suit and pearls reading Life magazine on a sofa. Christine accepted his invitation to dinner. By dessert they had plans. Desire so instant it felt like fate. As couplehood goes, it had its moments. As marriage goes, it was ridiculous" (Morrison 92-93).

This description of their meeting shows that their relationship was only based on attraction. Holder was attracted by Christine's beauty and his attraction to her was the basis of the relationship for him. It is also relevant that he was going to Manila's whorehouse to buy some fun. Since Christine is not one of the prostitutes, Holder cannot simply buy some fun from her. However, in a way he does. It is simply that he has to charm and marry her to get what he wants, instead of just paying her. In this way, there actually becomes the perception of friendship for Christine, even though it really does not exist. The meeting also shows that their relationship is too instant to be based on anything but attraction. Again, this shows the lack of friendship that exists in a marriage. A lack of friendship is also seen in the marriage's of Bill Cosey. He marries Heed but there is no friendship seen in this marriage. Instead, there is more friendship seen in the relationship between Bill Cosey and Celestial. Celestial is referred to as his favorite and their relationship seems more equal than his relationship with any other…

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