The Theme Of Childhood Trauma In God Help The Child By Toni Morrison

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In Toni Morrison’s God Help the Child, the protagonist of the novel, Bride, finds herself slowly transforming back into an adolescent. The novel uses magical realism to both literally and figurately revert Bride back to a state of girlhood. Her increasing lack of secondary sex characteristics, like breasts and pubic hair, triggers a fear of reverting back into a “scared little black girl”. The novel deals with several prominent themes, the two most prevalent being race and childhood trauma. Bride is scared to revert to girlhood, but what is she scared of exactly? What about black girlhood fills Bride with fear? It is important to note the emphasis on the inclusion of the word “black” to her description. This fear is visited several times throughout …show more content…
Children have very little control over what they will be subjected to at the hands of adults, whether it is unintentional harm or outright parental abuse. They lack autonomy, agency, and control of their environment. One of the most prominent themes in God Help the Child is childhood trauma and how it affects its victims during adulthood. Each character has his or her own unique experience with childhood abuse and trauma and many of the characters relate experiences with childhood sexual abuse. While each character deals with their experiences differently, the control this trauma has over their lives is evident. For Bride, the root of her childhood trauma lies with how she was treated by Sweetness. Before she began calling herself Bride, she was Lula Ann. As Lula Ann, she was subjected to a childhood filled with neglect. She was raised strictly and denied attention and physical affection. Sweetness raised Lula Ann at a distance, not allowing her to grow close to her. Lula Ann’s girlhood is partially defined by her lack of a strong female role model in her life. She is forced to navigate girlhood in a sexist world with a mother who not only neglects her daughter but also reinforces misogynistic stigmas. Significant events in Lula Ann’s life and girlhood development become the source of painful memories. Lula Ann is punished by Sweetness for menstruating for the first time. The act of …show more content…
From the moment she was born, Lula Ann was denied intimacy with her mother due to her color. “I told her to call me ‘Sweetness’ instead of ‘mother’ or ‘Mama.’ It was safer. Being that black and having what I thought were too-thick lips calling me ‘Mama’ would confuse people” (Morrison, 6). Lula Ann was denied even referring to her mother as such due to her color. Lula Ann craved even the slightest bit of interaction and approval from her mother, but it was seldom received. Because of her color, Lula Ann was raised incredibly strictly. Sweetness attempts to defend this, stating that she only did what she did to protect Lula Ann. “Things got better but I still had to be careful. Very careful in how I raised her. I had to be strict, very strict. Lula Ann needed to learn how to behave, how to keep her head down and not make trouble” (Morrison, 7). Lula Ann, like many other black children, was forced to mature faster than other children, solely because of her skin color. There were several different risks, and expectations to follow as a black child. She was taught rules to avoid falling victim to racism. Sweetness views Lula Ann’s dark black skin as a curse. “I don’t care how many times she changes her name. Her color is a cross she will always carry. But it’s not my fault. It’s not my fault. It’s not my fault. It’s not” (7). For Sweetness, Lula Ann’s color is a burden. Race is inescapable;

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