Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type

Open Access Thesis


English Language and Literatures

First Advisor

Qiana J. Whitted


This thesis examines how Toni Morrison captures the genuine lived unique experiences of Black grandmothers and their granddaughters throughout her novels and specifically in Beloved, Jazz, and Sula. My analysis takes a closer look at the complications behind Morrison’s grandmothers in order to demonstrate that, while she is strong, supportive, and family oriented, the Black grandmother figure can also be a person of peril. The main characters, Denver, Violet, and Sula must come to terms with the contradictions of strength and sacrifice that the novels insist are better left in the past. Drawing on Morrison scholarship and Black women’s studies, I contextualize each of the grandmothers in the selected texts against the era in which they lived. Ultimately, I argue that Morrison’s representation challenges the idea that the protagonists die when the ancestors do, and that even the grandmother’s failings – her mistakes, her regret, her resignation – are a part of wisdom. Findings from this discussion support the need for additional engagement with sources that feature the Black grandmother figure and relationships between the grandmother and granddaughter.


© 2023, Alexus Joannea Ray

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