Degree Year


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Phyllis Gorfain


Toni Morrison, Love, Sula, Nature, Imagery


A close analysis of nature imagery within Toni Morrison's two works, Love and Sula, reveals the types of connections this august writer creates between the natural sphere and the human realm. Such a comparative study of these two works is fitting because it sheds light on the larger context in which naturalized human love is placed and creatively celebrated in both an early and late Morrison novel. In particular, examining nature imagery divulges that both Heed and Christine's and Nel and Sula's innate friendships seems to represent a natural force. We see that Morrison personifies trees and water in order to merge the characters of Shadrack and L with their surrounding environment. Conversely, she tropes the characters of Nel, Sula, Heed, Christine, May and Junior as animals to further blur lines between separate human and natural identities. It is noteworthy that in these two specific novels, creatures and living, growing earthen forces serve to both reflect and provoke certain character's actions. Characters who are sensitive to nature experience both self- discovery and self-affirmation. In both of these works, Morrison is able to unseat certain gender stereotypes from both characters' and readers' minds.

words, learning the same lessons about self-formation and self-worth. Just as nature helps to heal and birth self-knowledge within her characters, she hopes it will bring about similar revelation within the self-conscious reader. Nature imagery is a gift Morrison uses to nourish all literary participants.

In the research I have conducted, no other Morrison critic has proposed and/or sufficiently discussed the theoretical assumption that a close reading of nature imagery in relation to self-knowledge, gender and central friendships would uncover underlying systems of thought that are otherwise unavailable to the reader. For instance, in a book that documents over 24 interviews with Toni Morrison over the past 30 years, only one conversation contains a question specifically related to her use of "nature spirits." Unfortunately, after this thread of discussion is answered by Morrison in one terse response, the interviewer, Charles Ruas, moves back to a question about "circular construction" in her novels. Sadly, the importance of nature imagery is underrated.