Magic Realism in Black American Literature: Sula, Toni Morrison

Essay by CilyneUniversity, Master'sA-, October 2009

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Magic realism was first used in 1925 by a German critic Franz Roh. The term defines an artistic genre mixing both magical and realistic elements. Most writers using magic realism set their stories in a "normal" (realistic) world where magical events occur. Sula, Toni Morrison's second novel, is not exclusively devoted to the magic realism style. However it is a good illustration of the writing evolution of the author. Sula seems to be an introduction to Morrison's work on magic realism. The following study will first analyze the magic realistic aspect of certain "scenes" in the novel and the feminist implication present through the characters.

Disruption of time and space is a magic realism strategy. In Sula, we can study the disruption of space thanks to the location of the Bottom, the fictive community upon a hill. Its spatial position supposes a high ranked neighborhood but its name gives a negative idea of the community.

Moreover being on a hill, the Bottom appears to be closer to God. Thus, the people should be either more virtuous or more blessed but finally the black community of the Bottom is as tainted and rotten as its name predicted. The world order is somehow inverted.

The first element of magic is related to Sula's return to the Bottom in 1937. She is "accompanied by a plague of robins". The inhabitants of the Bottom notice them but learn to live with them. They accept them mainly because they can blame Sula for it. This phenomenon is quite magic because robins are not naturally bonding together. In other words they rarely live all together. They are even said to be aggressive animals when being threatened. Besides, Sula is once more related to death and evilness when the robins are "dying all around [them]". The...