The Promise of Uncompromising Christianity: An Examination of Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Toni Morrison and Alice Walker Open Access

Fuscoe, Claire (Spring 2018)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/4b29b598d?locale=en
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Abstract

The Promise of Uncompromising Christianity seeks to examine Toni Morrison and Alice Walker’s ability to open a productive dialogue with their readers regarding the problematic aspects of the Christian religion within black communities. Both writers use character development to demonstrate how Christian traditions and values can negatively affect identity creation, self-worth, and sexual openness of black women. Christianity is limited to the religious traditions of Protestant and Methodist churches with predominately black congregations – also referred to as the black church. The significance of this discussion rests in Morrison and Walker’s unique ability to interrogate religious customs that have resulted in the harm of black women without alienating readers of different races or religious beliefs. As the predominant voices of black women writers in the twentieth century, Morrison and Walker’s fictional library serves as anecdotal evidence of how black women attempt to identify with a God that is traditionally depicted as a white male.

In order to uncover how both authors seek a new way of interpreting religious practices, six of their novels are discussed. Beginning with the identity creation of black women, Morrison and Walker reconcile how race functions within religious communities in their novels God Help the Child and Meridian, respectively. Both authors push back against biblical implications that desirability and leadership are primarily found in white males in novels A Mercy (Morrison) and Possessing the Secret of Joy (Walker). Finally, despite the widely recognized Christian belief that lustful behavior and female sexuality is a sin, Morrison’s Paradise and Walker’s By the Light of My Father’s Smile reveal similar conclusions regarding the healing nature of sexual freedom. Morrison and Walker demonstrate the black church can exacerbate the racial tensions it seeks to avoid, perpetuate gender inequality, diminish the healing power of sexuality, and yet be a force of hope and freedom to struggling communities. In a world alive with political, racial, and gendered tensions, Morrison and Walker’s fiction provokes an open conversation about religion while uniting their readership in a common desire for hope.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

 

Introduction………Page 1

Chapter 1: Identity Creation ………Page 13

            Attaining Beauty……… Page 16

            Becoming a good, Christian Woman………Page 20

Chapter 2: Searching for Leadership………Page 29

            Inherited Authority of Men ………Page 32

            Creating Opportunities ………Page 38

            Legacy of Perseverance ………Page 44

Chapter 3: Balancing Sexual Tensions ………Page 50

Community Response. to Sexuality ………Page 53

            Ownership of the Body………Page 58

            A Passion for Healing ………Page 62

Conclusion………Page 71

Works Cited……………………………………………….……………………………….Page 74

 

 

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