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Toni MorrisonMemory and Meaning$
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Adrienne Lanier Seward and Justine Tally

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781628460193

Published to University Press of Mississippi: May 2015

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781628460193.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM Mississippi SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.mississippi.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University Press of Mississippi, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MSSO for personal use.date: 25 September 2021

Personal and Cultural Memory in a Mercy

Personal and Cultural Memory in a Mercy

(p.80) Personal and Cultural Memory in a Mercy
Toni Morrison

Evelyn Jaffe Schreiber

University Press of Mississippi

A Mercy examines the ongoing struggle for self-ownership in an evolving society based on the hierarchies of race, class, and gender. This essay draws on neuroscience and social theories of memory and trauma to discuss how Morrison’s dispossessed characters vacillate between the New World bonding with strangers necessary for physical or spiritual survival and the prior life memories that preserve their sense of self. In this struggle between past experiences and future possibilities, memory often intrudes to block attempts at adaptation. Traumatic memories often keep characters from achieving such fulfillment. A Mercy captures the personal and social aspects of identity, with Morrison’s orphaned and transplanted characters revealing the vulnerabilities and fears that separate them from others at the same time that they connect characters with community. Sorting through personal and cultural forces that shape them, characters must develop a current relationship to the greater culture out of a personal history of prior social interactions. (154 words)

Keywords:   A Mercy, trauma, Neuroscience, memory, survival

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