Date of Award

Fall 12-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program




Major Professor

Steeby, Elizabeth

Second Advisor

Bryant, Earle

Third Advisor

Hazlett, John


In Song of Solomon, published during a transitional moment in the history of U.S. feminism, Toni Morrison portrays the destructive forces of hegemonic female beauty standards, materialism, and consumerism in a Midwestern African-American community from the 1930s to the 1960s. She reveals a hierarchy in which men define standards of beauty and respectability that enforce white bourgeois ideals. Focusing on five female characters, this thesis examines this hierarchy; the agents who maintain it; and the ways in which it affects female characters who accept and/or reject it. While one of the characters, Hagar, perishes in her attempt to live up to normative beauty standards, her cousin Corinthians is liberated when she leaves her oppressive father and moves in with a working class male partner. Morrison thus creates a viable alternative to strict adherence to materialist values, while representing the destructive force of oppressive beauty norms and standards of respectability.


The University of New Orleans and its agents retain the non-exclusive license to archive and make accessible this dissertation or thesis in whole or in part in all forms of media, now or hereafter known. The author retains all other ownership rights to the copyright of the thesis or dissertation.