The short story “Sweetness” by Toni Morrison was published in 2015. The part of the story set in the present is probably meant to be contemporary to the time of publishing, in the 2010s.
However, the story recounts events that took place in the 1990s: “Back in the nineties, when Lula Ann was born”. Also, the story includes references to the segregation period in the US, when the parents and grandparents of the narrator lived: “Neither one of them would let themselves drink from a ‘Colored Only’ fountain, even if they were dying of thirst.”
The physical setting of the present is a nursing home where the main character lives: “I prefer this place – Winston House – to those big, expensive nursing homes outside the city. Mine is small, homey, cheaper, with twenty-four-hour nurses and a doctor”.
The city where the main events took place is not mentioned, but we know that the daughter, Lula Ann/Bride has a “job in California”.
The physical setting is of less importance to the story’s themes and conflicts. Most of the emphasis is on the social setting.
The social setting conveys detailed aspects related to discrimination in the US, race and color issues, and how these aspects can affect African-American families.
Part of the story explores discrimination against African Americans during segregation through backstories about the main character’s family.
Segregation in the US was a system of separation base on race, which began to be implemented from the late 1800s. Under this discriminatory system, African Americans could not live in the same areas as white people, could not attend the same schools, or use the same toilets, hospitals, etc.
For example, the story mentions African Americans swearing on different Bibles and drinking from different water fountains: “When she and my father went to the courthouse to get married, there were two Bibles, and they had to put their hands ...