The Root of Black Degeneracy in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye & Sula: Collective Unconscious or Perceptions?

Kazi Shahidul Islam


The black characters’ degenerative behaviours in Toni Morrison’s first two novels The Bluest Eye (1970) and Sula (1973) can be attributed either to their collective unconscious or to their perceptions of the socio-economic reality characterized by white supremacy, racial discrimination, abusive parenting and several other human depravities. Following previous research on these issues, this paper examines whether the characters of the two novels as victims and/or victimizers should be subjected to archetypal interpretation or to the black Americans’ negating reality that instilled in them notions of inferiority, ugliness and self-loathing and that put their existence in a binary contrast with their white counterparts. In order to determine the main factor for black degeneracy in the two novels, this paper firstly postulates that the characters are driven by a self-imposed belief system that spurs certain behavioral traits singular to or rarely reactive to the community’s conventions. However, the findings of this research do not support the prevailing ontological or psychoanalytic approaches to the black characters in the novels. Finally, this paper calls for a phenomenological analysis of the black characters and establishes that the ubiquitous perceptional influence that leaves deep negative impressions on their self-image and collective identity significantly accounts for the root of black degeneracy in the novels.


Collective Unconscious, Perception, American Black Community, Degeneracy

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