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New Critical Essays on Toni Morrison's God Help the ChildRace, Culture, and History$
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Alice Knox Eaton, Maxine Lavon Montgomery, and Shirley A. Stave

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781496828873

Published to University Press of Mississippi: May 2021

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781496828873.001.0001

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Skin Deep: Identity and Trauma in God Help the Child

Skin Deep: Identity and Trauma in God Help the Child

Chapter:
(p.5) Skin Deep: Identity and Trauma in God Help the Child
Source:
New Critical Essays on Toni Morrison's God Help the Child
Author(s):

Shirley A. Stave

Publisher:
University Press of Mississippi
DOI:10.14325/mississippi/9781496828873.003.0002

In “Skin Deep: Identity and Trauma in God Help the Child,” Shirley A. Stave argues that the novel plays surface off depth, unravelling the dichotomy as false through the lens of racism, which is predicated upon the gaze, the surface, but which profoundly disables the depth, leaving its victims traumatized. Morrison’s two main characters, Bride and Booker, both live fractured lives because of their attempt to avoid depth, choosing image and intellect as mechanisms to insulate themselves from further trauma. Bride’s ruptured skin, which exposes what lies beneath, begins her journey toward wholeness, which results in her leaving the Lacanian Mirror Stage and a misguided sense of her completeness to enter the Symbolic Order. Similarly, Booker embraces intellect as a way to isolate himself from human connection. Bride and Booker, through the agency of Booker’s aunt Queen, learn to open themselves to vulnerability and achieve the completeness they have resisted.

Keywords:   Lacan, Trauma, Surface v. Depth, Mirror Stage, Symbolic Order

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