THAI NGUYEN UNIVERSITY
Socialist Republic of Vietnam
BATANGAS STATE UNIVERSITY
Republic of the Philippines
Ph.D. CANDIDATE: VU THI QUYNH DUNG (DZUNG)
INSIGHTS ON PURSUIT FOR MEANINGFUL LIFE
IN SELECTED WORKS OF TONI MORRISON
Specialty: English Language and Litera ture
DISSERTATION SUMMARY OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE
THAI NGUYEN, 2014
The study was done at:
INTERNATIONAL GRADUATE STUDY PROGRAMS,
THAI NGUYEN UNIVERSITY
Scientific supervisor: Dr. Maria Luisa A. Valdez
The peer review 1: ..................................................
The peer review 2: ..................................................
The peer review 3: ..................................................
The dissertation is defended to the Panel of Experts at:
Dissertation can be found at:
- National Library
- Learning Resource Center, Thai Nguyen University
- Library of International Training and Development
- Library of Batangas State University, Philippines
LIST OF AUTHOR’S PUBLCATION
1.Vu Thi Quynh Dung, Maternal Love of Black Mothers in
Technology.No 27, 10/2003- 57-61 (ISSN 1859-3968)
Pursuing a meaningful life is a fundamentally important goal
for anyone who lives on earth. Whether the meaning of life is
formulaic and what should we do to gain the significance of life are
really complicated questions. The answers are different from cultural
and ideological backgrounds.
Different people hold different views about meaningful life. In
general, if an average person possesses these five things, their life will
be significant: a faith in God, a meaningful family life, a meaningful
career, bosom friendship, and the positive contribution to the society.
Those five important components foster one another to strengthen the
life of the being.
For women, a part of a meaningful life derives from the
liberation of their own. Throughout the world, governments have
committed to achieve the equality between men and women. However,
their status in many countries remains considerably inferior of men in
many aspects of life. In developed countries, women are still suffering
from unequal wage in the workplace, from sexual harassment; the
prevalence of men in political, economic field, and others…
Similarly, the status of Vietnamese women has been greatly
improved since the foundation of the country in 1945. Women are
more respected in families and in society. Nevertheless, in many parts
of Vietnam, women are victims of discriminations, violence, obstacles
and gender disparities. That is the reason why the search for a
meaningful life of Vietnamese women is an endless struggle.
Among the writers who writes about women’s life, Toni
Morrison is one of the outstanding ones with novels about the diverse
and complex lives of black women within the black community as
well as holding that community responsible for its own. The wisdom
embodied in the selected works of Toni Morrison could be one of the
motivating factors that could help the Vietnamese students re-examine
their lives and values when they become aware of her genuine
With this thought in mind, the theme “Insights on pursuit for
meaningful life in selected works of Toni Morrison” is chosen to
The structure of dissertation includes 5 chapters.
1.1. Statements of Problem
The study seeks answers to the following questions:
1. How do the selected works of Toni Morrison manifest the
sufferings of Black women in terms of:
1.1 racial oppression;
1.2 gender inequality;
1.3 emotional abandonment; and
1.4 women’s sufferings?
2. How are the sources of strengths and motive of women’s resistance
2.1 love between mother and children;
2.2 husband and wife relationship;
2.3 freedom and equality; and
2.4 self identity?
3. In what manner do the women in the world portrayed in the novels
express resistance to the different forms of violence?
4. What are the implications of the themes pursued in the novels to
the study of meaningful family life among Vietnamese students?
1.2. Scope, Delimitation and Limitations of the Study
This study analyzes the insights on pursuit for meaningful life
in selected works of Toni Morrison namely Song of Solomon and Tar
Baby, pointing out the events and situations which show honest
implications of the themes pursued in the novels to the study of
meaningful family life among Vietnamese students. Likewise, this
paper tries to present how the selected works manifest the sufferings
of black women in terms of racial oppression, gender inequality,
emotional abandonment, and women’s sufferings; the sources of
strengths and motive of women’s resistance as shown in the love
between mother and children, husband and wife relationship, freedom
and equality, and self-identity; and the manner how the women in the
world portrayed in the novels express resistance to the different forms
The representative literary works of Toni Morrison entitled
Song of Solomon and Tar Baby were constituted the primary and
twining sources of the study to analyze. The said selections were
chosen because of including the themes in the statements of problem.
Likewise, these works have been taken up in critical analysis far less
frequently than Morrison’s other popular novels entitled “Beloved,
The Bluest Eyes, Sula, A Mercy, Peeny Butter Fudge, and many more.
1.3. Significance of the Study
Academic Managers. Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training,
the educational institutions ensure that the insights on the pursuit of
meaningful family life are integrated in the academic. This will also
inspire them to spawn activities in the curricula that will educate the
academic community of the beneficial outcomes of contemplating and
aiming for a meaningful family life to all people regardless of gender,
race, nationality and religious backgrounds.
Working Professionals. the analysis may showcase how they could to
explore their journey into a meaningful family life and lifestyle and
the positive implications of eschewing excess stuff in favor of
focusing on life’s more important aspects: health, relationships,
passion, growth, and contribution.
Media Practitioners. This study may inspire them to introduce an
intervention strategy known as entertainment education on the media
to change cultural attitudes, norms and behaviors that would benefit
College Instructors of Literature. This analysis will be helpful in the
instructor’s methodology in teaching literature as an inquiry into using
the appropriate literary theories and approaches in literary analysis. In
addition, this will provide them with opportunities to touch the
concept of meaningful family life in their literature classes and open
their students’ mind and hearts to the meaning of life as a
philosophical and spiritual question concerning the significance of life
or existence in general that maybe drawn from the selections.
Students of Literature. Not only will this analysis give them an
extensive and profound outlook in life with reference to a person’s
pursuit of meaningful life through the lives and experiences of the
writers and the characters in the selected literary pieces, it will also
make them realize the real essence of human existence.
Members of the Community. This paper will make them understand
that life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack
of meaning and purpose. For most people in the community, feeling
happy and finding life meaningful are both important and related
Other Researchers. This paper may inspire them to conduct more
researches on different ways Each issue of the dissertation is
recommended to be a more intensive and extensive research of the
theme. On the basis of study, a further in-depth research on a
meaningful life for Vietnamese youth is also recommended.
REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
This chapter is presented with the end view of identifying the
constructs of the study.
2.1. Conceptual Literature
The review of the conceptual literature yields four types of
constructs, which are used in the analysis and interpretation of the
literary pieces dissected. These constructs include: Literature and
Philosophy, Toni Morrison and her Significant Works, Meaningful
Family Life in Vietnam, and Sociological and Philosophical
Approaches in Literary Criticism.
2.2. Research Literature
This section presents the published and unpublished
researches that are related to the present study.
2.3. Synthesis of Literature Reviewed
This section justifies the direct bearing of the conceptual
literature to the present study followed by the presentation of the
similarities and differences of the cited research literature to the
2.4. Conceptual/Theoretical Framework
This section presents the central theme or the main thrust of
the study. It serves as a guide in conducting the investigation. It is
followed by a paradigm which is a diagrammatic representation of the
2.5. Definition of Terms
This section presents the terms defined conceptually and
operationally for a better understanding and appreciation of concepts
as they are used in the study. The terms defined are as follows:
emotional abandonment, gender inequality, meaningful family life,
racial oppression, self-identity, women in the world, and women’s
3.1. Research Design
This study employed the qualitative method of research in
analyzing the tenets of black women’s pursuit for meaningful life in
the representative literary works chosen.
Likewise, this study involved content analysis, which is a
systematic technique in analyzing message content and message
handling. The data analysis in this research centered on pattern
seeking and the extraction of meaning from Toni Morrison’s selected
linguistic or visual data. Much effort was directed toward task of
recording data through different methods like coding and categorizing;
attaching concepts to the categories, linking and combining abstract
concepts; creating theory from emerging themes, and writing an
Textual criticism was employed in this research to examine in
the texts the idea that literature can be a writer’s channel for
conveying his philosophical dimension of searching for a meaningful
life. Likewise, philosophical approach, and sociological approach
were applied in this study.
3.2. Treatment of Materials
The criteria are adopted to the process of analysis: linguistic
accessibility, literary accessibility, cultural accessibility and storytelling quality.
In subjecting the materials to internal and external criticism
and analysis, the meaning and trustworthiness of the statements in the
aforecited primary sources were carefully chartered and analyzed.
To attain congruency between the theories used in explaining
the black women’s’ insights on pursuit for the meaning of life, coding
and categorization were conducted. In this study, the categories which
served as coding units include the following: manifestations of black
women’s sufferings; sources of strengths and motive of women’s
resistance; manner in which the “women in the world” express
resistance to the different forms of violence; and the implications of
the themes to the study of meaningful family life among Vietnamese
Direct lines were lifted from the selections served as the
primary texts and juxtaposed with the theoretical statements discussed.
These passages from the chosen prose substantiated the theoretical
basis of the study.
INTERPRETATION AND ANALYSIS OF DATA
1. The manifestation of the sufferings of Black women in the
selected works of Toni Morrison
1.1. Racial oppression
The novels reflect the hard life that Black women experienced
as being colored. The oppressive forms derive from externalized force
such as violence, maltreated behavior, mistreatment by the white or
even by the black ones. They also suffer from the internalized force
such as hatred of the physical appearance of the black, the desire to
become white-like women.
1.2. Gender inequality
The analysis shows that black women were oppressed by the
conventions of the patriarchal society about the role of women at
home, in marriage and in relationships with men. The society put on
their shoulders the burden of responsibility for the bulk of child
bearing and rearing, of housework.Their world was restricted within
the family. These conventions considered black women as submissive,
passive group. They wounded black women physically and
1.3. Emotional abandonment
Emotional abandonment is a very significant aspect of the
sufferings of black women in Morrison’s novels. She explained the
different forms of abandoning act experienced by the female
characters in her novel that led these characters to became oppressed.
In the world of the works, men took control in relationships. When
they no longer felt those interesting, they tried to give up their partner.
Then women became the victims of the abandonment. They suffered
from both physical and emotional abandonment.
1.4. Women’s sufferings
Black women in the selected works suffered from hundreds of
humiliation in life, from domestic violence to suspicion, alienation of
their closest people and the community. They were bruise wounded or
even killed by their husbands. Their spouses mistrusted their
faithfulness. Their effort to satisfy the husbands were not properly
appreciated. What they said or did were always made fun of or
decried. They could not have a normal life because they were black
and they were women in the male-dominance society.
2. The sources of strengths and motive of women’s resistance
2.1 Love between mother and children
Mothers in the novels showed their unconditional love in
different ways. They suffered from the violence of the husband, from
the prejudice of the community since the child was inside their womb.
They sacrificed their life to be enslaved provided that their beloved
had respectable education. Their love for their own child was obvious,
but nobody else was able to show disaffection to theirs. If they did so,
they would hurt the mothers. Their unfailing love was the source of
strength to protect their off springs from troubles.
2.2 Husband and wife relationship
Husband and wife relationship was also a strong motive that
led to the rebellion of women in the two novels. Being ignored, they
tried to gain the love of the man of their life by cheating him with
magical medicine, beautifying themselves to attract him, or even
attempting to kill him. The call of love also made a smart, urban
woman like Jadine to come back to Eloe, a typical place of blackness
with old-fashioned values. It was for him that she struggled in New
York to support his education. Those women were strongly motivated
in maintaining their conjugal relationship.
2.3 Freedom and equality
Women in those selected novels were found to search for
freedom and equality within the context of oppressions and violence.
Being women in a white-dominated society, they experienced double
jeopardy. The white discriminated and men maltreated them at home
and at work. They were considered to be dependent, marginalized
group of the society. They also suffered from mental and physical
violence. Those were the driving force that encouraged them to stand
up to gain the equal status and liberty.
2.4 Self identity
Women’s search for identity overwhelmed in both Song of
Solomon and Tar Baby. The two typical women who resisted to find
out the answer to “who am I?” were Pilate and Jadine. In the racist
world of the novel, Pilate strived for her black root, dressing and
leading the life in her own way, she was not affected by the modern
invention such as gas, electricity, or telephone. Whereas Jadine made
her effort to be black among the white, but to be herself among the
black. The toughness of life could not put out but inspired the fire to
seek for self identity in those women.
3. In what manner do the women in the world portrayed in the
novels express resistance to the different forms of violence?
Women reacted differently in different context of violence, but
the three most popular forms of resistance were found in the novels
perspective, resistance includes three other forms: verbal, physical and
armed resistance. Ruth conformed with the pressure her husband put
on her; Lena cried; Jadine quarreled; but Hagar revenged with
weapons. Depending on the situation, each woman had their own
choice of confrontation.
4. What are the implications of the themes pursued in the novels
to the study of meaningful family life among Vietnamese students?
By studying the selected works of Toni Morrison in great
depth, the analysis shows that if Vietnamese students have an overall
view of women’s oppressions such as racialism, inequality, domestic
violence, so on so forth, especially from their own family, they will be
able to realize the values of their present life, and make changes
towards the future. Therefore, to acknowledge students the values of a
meaningful family life and how to achieve it is a vitally important task
of each educational institution. Family is the first school of
individuals. It has great effects in forming the characteristics of each
one. If family members fulfill their own responsibilities to their
family, they perform well their duties to the society.
SUMMARY, CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION
This chapter presents the summary, findings, conclusions and
recommendations of the study.
By employing qualitative method with philosophical and
sociological approaches of literary criticism to analyze the content of
two selected novels namely Song of Solomon and Tar Baby of Toni
Morrison, the analysis has dealt with the following issues: the
sufferings of black women in terms of racial oppression, gender
inequality, emotional abandonment, and women’s sufferings; the
sources of strengths and motive of women’s resistance as shown in the
love between mother and children, husband and wife relationship,
freedom and equality, and self-identity; and the manner how the
women in the world portrayed in the novels express resistance to the
different forms of violence. Likewise, the analysis shows the
implications of the themes pursued in the novels to the study of
meaningful family life among Vietnamese students.
1. The thesis shows that mostly, the black female characters in fiction
experience humiliation and suffer an acute isolation in a white racist
society that has marginalized them. They are considered outcast who
do not enjoy any racial, gender privilege and are often silenced by
hostile gaze of others.
2. To gain a meaningful life, Morrison's black female characters learn
to craft significant identity by challenging all racial stereotypes. Black
women have always resisted every sort of oppression; apparently they
learn to wear the mask of conformity but this mask does not destroy
this inner strength and power to resist. They have always pulled
together their power of resistance, sometimes, by destroying the socalled established tradition and cultural norms and sometime by daring
to do something which is forbidden in white patriarchal society.
3. The result of the study also indicate that oppressed women resisted
and revolted in various ways, such as verbal, physical, and armed
resistance. Other forms of resistance included violence, non-violence
or acquiescence. Hartman’s subject-object theory clearly delineates the
psychological rationality behind the relationship between oppression,
resistance and revolt. Because these women were oppressed by being
treated as objects, their actions were a way of expressing their
individuality as agents or subjects of their actions.
4. It is the interest of this study to open up the gate of wisdom to the
students to understand the destiny of African American women in the
white patriarch society. By reviewing values through the tenets of
literature by a black woman writer, they may realize that their present
life is precious. That will change the way they think and behave, and
foster students to hold campaigns and propaganda focusing on
promoting the values of a meaningful family life, a life of prosperity,
equality, happiness, progress, a life without prejudice and violence.
Based on the findings, the following conclusions are drawn: