Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Richard Moreland


This work explores the relationships between and among women in the fiction of Toni Morrison. Morrison's mothers, sisters, and daughters cannot function without the love and support of a community of women. Those characters who abandon or reject this community become lost to their own world. Morrison women, thus, find themselves in and through other women. The first two chapters establish Morrison's characters in relation to those of other authors in order to show her unique sense of community. Comparing Morrison's work to Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own and her emphasis on individuality and isolation illustrates Morrison's dependence on community and heritage in building a women's ancestry. Morrison's treatment of isolated individuals who reject the community is examined in chapter two through comparison to characters from the works of such authors as Carson McCullers and Flannery O'Connor. Some of Morrison's pariahs or misfits may have committed crimes which caused them to appear to be apart from the rest of the community while others reject the mother's ancestry in an attempt to find their own. Morrison's characters are not the grotesque figures described by many of these other authors, however, because they function within the society and because the society is a pariah society. These are not mere caricatures used to develop the plot. Chapter three focuses on Toni Morrison's sisters who help one another find the self and a place in the community. Discovering their role as a sister leads women to appreciate themselves, other women, and their community. Morrison's sisters are of primary importance, since all other women's relationships must strive to reach that level of equality and strength. Chapter four shows that Morrison mothers need other women to help them negotiate proper boundaries. To realize these boundaries mothers must trust in themselves, the child, and the community. Sisterhood is, thus, of utmost importance to motherhood. In chapter five, I illustrate how Morrison's daughters find themselves through the mother's story. Morrison daughters who do not learn the mother story cannot find the self. Successful Morrison daughters need to move toward sisterhood to become part of community.