Transcending stereotyped motherhood : the social construction of mothers under duress in Toni Morrison's Beloved and Song of Solomon and Cynthia Ozick's The shawl and The cannibal galaxy / Carol A. Fishbone.
The primary argument of this dissertation is the question of motherhood under the direct or indirect social traumas of slavery and the Holocaust. Feminist concepts of womanhood as essentialist or socially constructed are also utilized due to the relevant progression of woman to mother. The mothers in question, created by Toni Morrison, an African-American novelist, and Cynthia Ozick, a Jewish-American novelist, who may be biological mothers, othermothers, or both, must co-opt the traditionally accepted and patriarchal definition of motherhood in order to protect themselves and the children in their charge.The analysis occurs when the mothers and othermothers not only defy the definitions, but also the language and actions of accepted motherhood. The first correlations made between characters and novels include Beloved's Sethe and The Shawl's Rosa. Sethe's concept of survival is circumscribed by the constructs of slavery and thus, to kill her children and herself is a better solution than the alternative. Similarly, Rosa must decide whether to silence her daughter, whom she believed for months to be mute as a result of malnutrition and environmental issues, to save the child's life, or allow her to exhibit her recently found voice and die at the hands of the Nazis. The comparative notion of the absence of stereotypical mothering, particularly its positive aspects, and its connectedness to survival of both self and "of the tribe," so to speak, are what link Morrison and Ozick's characters and works, as do the cultural consequences of slavery and the Holocaust: oppression and racism.Morrison's Song of Solomon and Ozick's The Cannibal Galaxy are subsequently analyzed for their similarities regarding the mother characters, and the fact that the women are dealing not only with the trials of motherhood in post-slavery and post-Shoah societies, but also are adversely affected by these oppressive circumstances because of events in their own recent pasts or family histories. Because both Morrison and Ozick decide "to explore history,…and [interpret]…the past's uses in the present" (Kubitschek 22), the effects of slavery and the Holocaust shape aspects of all their mother figures, driving them toward the new literary figure, the heroic mother.
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