African- American folklore is arguably the basis for most African- American literature. In a country where as late as the 1860's there were laws prohibiting the teaching of slaves, it was necessary for the oral tradition to carry the values the group considered significant. Transition by the word of mouth took the place of pamphlets, poems, and novels. Themes such as the quest for freedom, the nature of evil, and the powerful verses the powerless became the themes of African- American literature. In a book called Fiction and Folklore: the novels of Toni Morrision author Trudier Harris explains that "Early folk beliefs were so powerful a force in the lives of slaves that their masters sought to co-opt that power. Slave masters used
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With the aura of unreality in Morrison's characters and settings, her plots scream with real life themes such as murder, war, poverty, sexual abuse, and racism. In The Bluest Eye and Sula, Morrison combines fiction and folklore to create two chilling stories about black communities struggling to define themselves.The Bluest Eye is not just a story about young impressionable black girls in the Midwest; it is also the story of African- American folk culture in process. The character Claudia MacTeer is the narrator for this folk tale. Claudia gives a voice to Pecola Breedlove's story and to the community. The story is shaped from the beginning with the expectation of reader involvement and with the presumption of an audience.
The brief preface that begins "Quiet as it's kept, there were no marigolds in the fall of 1941", serves to establish Claudia as the communal rehearser of tragedy. Her first person narration establishes a close relationship between herself and the reader. Like many of Morrison's novels, The Bluest Eye shows the heroic and failed efforts of a struggling black community. With the use of a first person narrator, Morrison is able to make the story seem oral and it also requires the reader to participate with her in the making of the story.
Morrison has commented "My writing expects, demands participatory reading, and that I think is what literature is