Absence is potent, unanswerable questions are the ones that engage us, the silences are thick with story. – Janette Turner Hospital
Monday, May 25, 2009
The Past Haunting the Future
Toni Morrison's Paradise disrupts and dislocates the totalizing views of race, class, and gender that an insular community constructs for itself. It does so by relocating the present inside of the knowledge of past traumas, demonstrating the inability to escape what has come before. In "From Deconstructive to Constructive Haunting in Toni Morrison's Paradise," Tammy Clewell finds constructive possibilities in this "haunting" in the way it "prevents the closure of any totalizing construction of subjectivity or homogeneous social organizations." The past virtually reopens the political and ethical discussion of identity in an essentialist community. Clewell adds, "Morrison's writing, in other words, does not tell ghost stories, at least not primarily, as a means of critiquing illusory notions of self-wholeness and social unity; the novel engages multiple figures of haunting as a work of rebuilding interior and exterior dwelling places worthy of human habitation." These worthy places are contingent upon the past and other racial, class, and gendered identities, responding to the present and historical others instead of fleeing from them. The novel, thus, raises crucial questions about the dependence of one identity upon another and the inability to maintain a community in isolation in today's world.