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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.64, No.1, 61 ~ 77, 2018
Beyond Heteronormativity in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Home
Jina Moon
This essay examines Toni Morrison’s African-American characters’ struggle in The Bluest Eye (1970) and Home (2012) through the lens of heteronormativity, arguing that they suffer double victimization due to both their race and gender. The Bluest Eye portrays a family tragedy caused by an African-American husband and wife’s failure to live up to images of gender as represented in white, middle-class media. Written forty-two years later, Home describes an African-American man and woman who establish their own lives away from gendered standards after striving to meet social expectations and becoming traumatized in the process. Their adversities stem not only from the deeply rooted racial discrimination in American society but also from subtle gendered norms implanted by heteronormativity. Morrison’s characters in her earlier narrative face a tragic denouement, ultimately destroying their children’s lives. By contrast, Morrison’s later characters explore more utopian ways of life unfettered by heteronormativity, overcoming hardships imposed by white- centered heteronormal society. By portraying socially victimized characters, Toni Morrison problematizes the power behind the discriminatory nature of heteronormativity and suggests a more gender-neutral, egalitarian way of organizing society, free from the constraints of heterosexuality and from violence created by normalized gender rules.
Key Words
Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye, Home, Heteronormativity, African-American Women
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