True and ancient properties: naming and spirits in the novels of Toni Morrison
Since the ancient Egyptians inscribed "Man, know thyself" above the entrances to their mystery temples more than five thousand years ago, humankind has continued its quest for self-understanding.
This quest is a common theme in American literature, indeed in all literature. It is particularly strong in the writing of African-Americans as their desire for a sense of self is heightened by the severing of ties to their ancestry by the institution of slavery.
Toni Morrison, then, shares excellent company as her work can be counted among the best of the genre. Her five novels, The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, and Beloved share the common theme of the search for self-actualization. In each of the works, Morrison asserts that self-knowledge lies in embracing one's "true and ancient properties"--one's name and heritage. (Abstract shortened with permission of author.)