The relationship between mother and daughter

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Lula Ann's birth's impact on her mother

The most important relationship in the short story “Sweetness” by Toni Morrison is that between mother and daughter, a relationship that your assignment also asks you to focus on.

From the beginning of the story, we find out that the light-skinned African-American mother is repelled by her own daughter’s dark skin: “It’s not my fault. So you can’t blame me. I didn’t do it and have no idea how it happened. (...) something was wrong. Really wrong. She was so black she scared me.”; “I hate to say it, but from the very beginning in the maternity ward the baby, Lula Ann, embarrassed me.”

The narrator cannot accept her daughter and love her. On the contrary, her first impulse is to kill the baby or to abandon her: “I know I went crazy for a minute, because – just for a few seconds – I held a blanket over her face and pressed”. Nevertheless, she cannot bring herself to do it:

But I couldn’t do that, no matter how much I wished she hadn’t been born with that terrible color. I even thought of giving her away to an orphanage someplace. But I was scared to be one of those mothers…

Even though she keeps the child, the narrator​​​​​​​ treats the girl badly from the start, feeling repelled by Lula Ann and trying to hide her from others: “All I know is that, for me, nursing her was like having a pickaninny sucking my teat. I went to bottle-feeding soon as I got home.”; “I didn’t take her outside much, anyway, because (...) people would lean down and peek in to say something nice and then give a start or jump back before frowning. That hurt.”.

Furthermore, she blames the breakdown of her marriage on the child and her skin color: “That ...

The text shown above is just an extract. Only members can read the full content.

Get access to the full Study Guide.

As a member of, you get access to all of the content.

Sign up now

Already a member? Log in