In new and clean when they are

In both Sula by Toni Morrison and The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, there is an exploration of conformity and the factors influencing characters decision to conform. Sula being a novel and The Glass Menagerie being a play, different techniques are adopted by both authors to portray the idea of conformity. Whilst Morrison uses narrative structure and dialogue between mother and daughter, Williams uses symbolism and lighting to convey the role upbringing has on an individual’s decision to conform. Sula is a story about an independent free minded black woman who chooses to break the boundaries set by her family and collectivist community. The term collectivist refers to the belief that an individual is part of a larger group and to survive, requires protecting the needs and desires of the group, not just the individual. With the context of poverty paired with the evident collectivist ideologies in both texts, defense mechanisms are clearly employed by both communities against those who choose not to conform. The community of “The Bottom” unite through their collective hate for white people and they shut down threats to their system by ostracizing Sula. In The Glass Menagerie, instead of ostracization, Tom is forced to comply with the structure, and this is evident through the dialogue between Amanda and Tom. Both writers in their respective texts, thus explore the concept of conformity and its complex repercussions using their protagonists by presenting them as characters who are tasked with navigating their individuality in collectivist environments.   Both Williams and Morrison use their protagonists to show the difficulty of non-conformity as a result of the community they are put into. The women of the Bottom hate Sula because she is living criticism of their own lives of conformity;   “Those women with husbands had folded themselves into starched coffins, their sides bursting other people’s skinned dreams and bony regrets.”  The women are victims of their own prejudice and social conventions. The use of the word ‘folded’ demonstrates the rigid confines in which they put themselves into, in order to fit into the wills of the society. By Morrison using “starched” next to “coffin” she alludes to funerals within her text, in the way that coffins are brand new and clean when they are firstly put into the ground, but as time goes on they get tainted and rot. When these women are born, they have a puritanical view of themselves but essentially this gets tarnished by the corrupted rules of society. Morrison uses magic realism to further emphasize the hatred and resentment the community has for Sula. Sula’s birthmark on the eye is perceived differently by members of the community; a snake being one. Snakes bring forth connotations of Satan, who is the evil being that lured Eve to eat fruit of wisdom in the Bible. Literature is fond of describing Satan as purely evil however, Miltons Paradise Lost opens a less harsh description of Satan. He is described as a rebellious spirit who had the confidence to challenge God’s authority. Morrison may have created the character of Sula with the same rebellious spirit in mind as  “she played very crazily, but she never suffered from injuries; whether insects or mosquitoes did or not fall on her.”  Morrison obscures the lines in which heroes and villains dominate the text. She diverts from the traditional fixed telling as there is no clear villain within her novel. Like Satan, the reader feels ambiguity towards Sula, since we should condemn her actions but we find ourselves silently rooting for her success. Sula becomes more rebellious when she grows up but in order to pursue herself and live an independent life, she had to challenge the home of “God” – Eva. She did not listen to her advice to marry, instead, she openly announced “I do not want to bring up anything, I just want to make my own.” The repetition of the personal pronoun “I” is used by Morrison to highlight it is Sula’s desire not anyone else’s. However, it can be considered that although Sula does not want to “bring up anything”, she wants to “make my (her) own”. This may refer to child bearing because having children is making something of your own, this contradiction suggests that Sula does not know exactly what she wants-like many people- but she is embracing the uncertainty, unlike the community who fear it. Sula’s refusal of reproduction is the pinnacle of difference from her community; it is what renders her evil and unnatural to the people of the Bottom. Morrison uses magic realism again in the return of Sula, as she is heralded by an unnatural plague of robins, and her death is said to have induced an untimely frost in October and a faux spring in January. The natural disorders that occur are symbolically parallel to the disorder Sulas unnatural refusal to be a mother discharges on her community. Barbara Christian (1985) argues that “the problem of physical survival faced by the novel’s black community determines their definition of women as mothers”. Sula thus becomes “Satan”, with the whole community against her. Morrison may have chosen her epigraph Serafina delle Rose by Tennessee Williams, to foreshadow the capability of a community to resent an individual; “Nobody knew my rose of the world but me. . .I had too much glory. They don’t want glory like that in nobody’s heart.” In the play, after the death of the Serafinas husband, her neighbors are convinced that he had an extramarital affair before he died, however, Serifina has an unconditional love and questioning his love would undercut the glory she has for herself. The neighbors think that Serafina has “too much glory” just as the Bottom’s black community despise Sula because she has acquired an independence that contrasts the community’s own small-mindedness and conformity. Sula’s neglection of the community’s idea of motherhood causes the black community to construct her as a scapegoat and to defend with renewed vigor their conception of motherhood as the primary feminine function. On analyzing the outcome of Sulas non-conformity in her collectivist environment, we as readers question if dying alone, but happy is worth it. Maureen Reddy (1988) remarks that “Sula’s death, of a mysterious wasting disease, is reminiscent of the deaths with which unconventional nineteenth-century fictional heroines were punished”. While Morrison encompasses this conventional ending, the novel simultaneously vitites from this concept as Sula does not feel the same pentinence of her literary predecessors; she dies with pride. Sula may be the voice of Morrison as she portrays a deep understanding of the black community as she says she knows “what every coloured woman in this country is doing” and that is dying like her but they are dying like “stumps”, but she is “going down like one of those redwoods”. By having Sula as a character who is proud of her unconventional life, Morrison shows there are complex consequences of non-conformity.  Williams also uses his protagonist Tom to show the complex consequences of non-conformity as a result of the community he is put into. Amanda is a representative of a wider community that encourages conformity as they fear… society hates individuals like Tom because he is living a life which they long to live. Amanda has a collectivist outlook.”We have to do all that we can to build ourselves up. In these trying times we live in, all that we have to cling to is—each other…”. The use of collective pronouns “we”, “ourselves” “each other”.  “cling to”, Amanda is not only clinging onto her family and her mental start. The dialogue between Amanda and Tom is a microcosm of the dialogue that was going on in the world at that time “You will hear more, you—”  “No, I won’t hear more, I’m going out!”  “You come right back in—”  “Out, out, out! Because I’m—”  “Come back here, Tom Wingfield! I’m not through talking to you!”  Amanda uses imperatives whilst talking Tom, The repetition of “out” on the surface can be seen as Tom having a typical argument with his mother but Williams is renowned for externalizing his neurotic internal world in his plays. Williams remarks in his poem The Siege, that he builds “tottering pillar of my blood…against the siege of all that is not I”. Williams wanted to get out..he changed his name and made a new identity for himself. Tom was not content with “working in the shoe factory” the same way Williams wasn’t content. Toms decision to stray from the structure Amanda has created is significant of the younger generation, however this action causes him to miss his sister.   Both writers use literary techniques to convey how poverty is a factor which influences conformist nature. Morrison develops her novel within a backdrop of poverty and isolation. By having financial lack as an omnipresent essence characters are subconsiously forced to choose whether to conform. This idea is magnified by the character of Eva who in the beginning conforms to the mother role as she looks after her children, but when this leads her to be in a cold outhouse with her children, she abandons this and becomes fiercely independent. Eva is the breadwinner of her family, she creates her home and the community everyone resides in. By naming the character of Eva ‘Eva’, Morrison alludes to the biblical Eve, who is said to be the mother of all and a reigning matriarch of her own family. Morrison through her prologue suggests that poverty is something black people are accustumed to. The name of their community is derived from the manipulation of a white boss, where a slave was promised “the bottom land” if he completed a task, but got the land that was from Gods view point “the bottom of heaven”. A contemporary review of Sula by Sara Blackburn (1973), observed that “the setting of the novel seems somehow frozen, stylized and refuses to invade our present”. The novel’s opening chapter, in particular, conveys this frozen impression by placing the Bottom in an inaccessible past; ” In that place, where they tore the nightshade and blackberry patches from their roots to make room for the Medallion City Golf Course, there was once a neighbourhood.” This impression of temporal distance is strengthened by the nigger joke that traces the origin of the Bottom all the way back to slavery. Encapsulating the folk philosophy of the Bottom community, the nigger joke perpetuates the history of racial exploitation, casting the white slave master as an omnipotent manipulator and blacks as his innocent dupes. The black community in Sula is deeply invested in this image of themselves, for the role of the victim offers them a way of safe resignation. Preserving their victim status protects them from the rigours of creating a new identity free of their oppressive past.With the novel beginning and ending with The Bottom It can be considered that the circular narrative structure of the novel may have been used by Morrison to show the never-ending cycle of poverty black people have found themselves in, with the closing sentence  being;  “It was a fine cry — loud and long — but it had no bottom and it had no top, just circles and circles of sorrow.    Through stage directions and plastic theatre, Williams creates an atmosphere on stage, that  shows the effect poverty has on the characters. Williams begins his play with details regarding the stage directions and time in which the play is set. “QUOTE” By mentioning events outside the ply, Williams highlights how what the Wingfields are going through is common in the contemporary society of the 1940’s. The Wingfields like the rest of American Society are choosing to ignore the Depression and the impending war.  The stage directions include metaphors that have a semantic field that concerns non-individuality and escape. Williams describes their apartment as a “vast hive-like conglomerations”. This suggests the people living here lack individuality, as the same you can’t differentiate worker bees, the inhabitants of these buildings are identical and work till they die. Williams uses the fire escape as an emblem of the Wingfields poverty, with the fire being the “fires of human desperation”. Tom introduces his mother Amanda and the audience sees immediately her unrealistic approach to life. Amanda forces the breadwinner role onto Tom. After World War 1 there was immense pressure on males to provide for their families. In Act 1, Scene 3 Amanda remarks that “x”. Plastic theatre-fiery flame. Pushing her husbands role onto Tom creates tension and fuels Toms fire to not conform. Williams through the character of Tom explores the different types of responsibilities and how conformity fits into it. Tom is conscious of his responsibility however not in the traditional terms of being loyal to a family but in the sense of human choice. By taking the decision to not conform to the dying traditions of the breadwinner, he creates his own identity. Both writers thus show how poverty is an underlying influence on conformity.   Both Morrison and Williams convey the ways in which family and upbringing is a factor in influencing how much an individual conforms to societal expectations. In Sula, Helene (Nel’s mother), urges Nel to “pull her nose” to make it “less wide like your her fathers” and uses the idea that in the future Nel will be more accepted because she has conformed to Eurocentric standards of beauty-which implies that a slender narrow nose is beautiful. Morrison shows resentment towards internalized racism within African American communities through the dialogue of Nel and her mother; “While sittin’ there, honey, go ‘head and pull your nose.” “It hurts, Mamma” “Don’t you want a nice nose when you grow up?” It can be considered that Morrison uses “hurts” as a double entendre, in the way in which it can be interpreted as physical pain or representative of the psychological and emotional pain black women go through to conform to these physical standards of beauty that is even inflicted from people in their family. Jennifer Messing –a critic that took an African American approach in analyzing Sula- exclaims that “black people can also become their own worst enemies, in an addition to the white people who continue to perpetuate the racism and discrimination” (2014). Helene is a character that reflects the black mothers surrounded by Toni Morrison in the 1970s who subconsciously diminish their daughter’s individuality, by making them conform to Eurocentric standards of beauty in a rigorous attempt to make them survive in a racist world. This idea is intertextually parallel with Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, where a young black girl thinks the epitome of beauty is when you attain blue eyes.  Morrison further emphasizes the impact of upbringing through her narrative structure. As the novel progresses, Helene’s “firm hand” in raising Nel causes a deterioration of Nel’s enthusiasm to create her own identity. In the beginning, Morrison makes Nel constantly refer to her “meness” and how she wants ‘to be wonderful’, but by the end of the novel, Morrison strips the character of Nel of her individuality and shows her readers that the concept of choosing your identity is an unaffordable luxury when one chooses to conform to societal expectations as an adult. Nel fulfils what was expected of young African American Women in the 1930s; married, had children and sticks by her family despite the sexual transgressions of her husband Jude. At one point she considers the freedom that comes with death but because of her three children, Nel- a character symbolic of many young African-American women in the 1930s- is forced to wrap herself ‘in the conventional mantle of sacrifice and martyrdom and takes her place with the rest of the women in the community’ (Jan Furman, 2014) and so her ‘meness’ is lost.   Likewise, in the Glass Menagerie, Williams through the characterization of Amanda shows the heavy influence family has on individuals and their decision to conform. Amanda is a character who distorts reality, to fit her desire which is for her daughter to conform to the expectations she had to adhere to, when she was a young Southern Belle. Southern Belles were expected to marry a wealthy planter and settle down to raise their family on a large plantation with many servants. This Belle Reve of Southern Aristocratic life in antebellum times, is a common theme in Williams’ play. A direct link is seen in A Streetcar named Desire where the protagonist Blanche feels useless having not conformed to the Southern Belle idea. Through this it seems William’s is highlighting the pressures put on women to conform to the Southern Belle ideology and this convinces the modern audience that Williams “understood loss and lacking and displacement in a society that had no regard for women” (Weaver, 1944). Williams uses the symbolism of flowers to portray how Laura’s identity and individuality is taken away before she gets the chance to explore it. Amanda attempts to force Laura to conform to that which is expected of girls her age ‘I know so well what becomes of unmarried women who aren’t prepared to occupy a position.”. Constantly reminiscing about her past, Williams uses Jonquils as a symbol that links Amanda’s past and present life. Jonquils are flowers related to vanity and narcissism from Greek Mythology and for the character of Amanda, the flowers are reminiscent of the past and signify what she wants for her daughter. Therefore, the name Jim gives to Laura “Blue Roses” is in antithesis to the idea of jonquils. Blue roses are rare and mythical and this represent the individuality and uniqueness behind Laura’s personality. Williams furthers amplifies Laura’s individuality through the lighting associated with her “and a soft light from the new lamp brings out Laura’s “unearthly prettiness”. Amanda’s conformity and faith in the gentleman caller tradition-that the man comes to inquire to court the young woman-not only results in a failed marriage but also leads to her unknowingly destroying her relationship with her children. Amanda expends her ingenuity in manipulating others to care for her and for themselves, a seemingly selfish but also naïvely altruistic stance that ironically alienates and defeats those she most wants to encourage. Instead of acknowledging her children as individuals both gifted and flawed, she subconsciously denies them their humanity by insisting on their perfection. It can be considered that Williams, through the interactions of the characters of Laura and Amanda, may be reflecting on the relationship between his sister Rose and his mother. Rose was forced to undergo a lobotomy out of desperation from her mother to make her “normal”. Williams thus suggests that to conform is to be “just like the other horses”; parts of self must be chipped away and broken. Both authors thus use the conformity of their characters and their subsequent outcomes of losing their individuality to voice their criticisms of conforming to societal expectations. However, whilst Morrison uses narrative structure and dialogue between mother and daughter to convey this, Williams uses symbolism and lighting.