Cover image for The crime of innocence in the fiction of Toni Morrison
The crime of innocence in the fiction of Toni Morrison
Otten, Terry.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Columbia : University of Missouri Press, [1989]

Physical Description:
vii, 101 pages ; 21 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3563.O8749 Z8 1989 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Reviews 1

Choice Review

Highly readable and tightly woven, Otten's analysis traces as a theme in Morrison's fiction the "fortunate fall," which had its origins in the romantic literary tradition wherein the fall from grace in a spurious garden of innocence was a heroic act. "In a society operated by an oppressive order, not to sin, in the conventional sense," as Otten explains, perpetuates the immoral order. Thus innocence "is itself a sign of guilt." Placing this fall motif in the context of African-American culture, Otten shows how Morrison uses "the fall" as a way "to describe the emerging selfhood of black characters trapped in white society." In chapters devoted to each of Morrison's novels, Otten demonstrates the way in which Morrison's characters fall from this paralyzing innocence and become, as they rebel against the status quo, more intently aware of who they are and more closely tied--albeit in complex and not totally redemptive ways--to the values of their own community. The great value of this book is that it places Morrison in a traditional literary historical context (that is largely European in origin) without ignoring the variations that the African-American cultural matrix places on that tradition. The World of Toni Morrison by B.W. Jones and A.L. Vinson (1985) and Critical Essays on Toni Morrison, ed. by N. McKay (CH, Jan'89) contain studies on various aspects of her works. Otten's is the first work on Morrison that follows a single theme. An excellent resource text for undergraduate and graduate students studying Morrison in the contexts of both African-American cultural and Romantic literary traditions. -C. C. Denard, Georgia State University