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by: Toni Morrison

Dorcas

As with Joe and Violet, Morrison recounts the pivotal events in Dorcas's life that shaped her personality, making her more sympathetic than she would at first appear. As a young girl, Dorcas lost both of her parents in the same day when her father was killed on a streetcar and her mother died in a burning building during the East St. Louis riots, which left her orphaned and homeless. Like so many of the characters in the book, Dorcas migrated to the City where her life was to be rebuilt by the obsessive care of her aunt, Alice Manfred. However, as a teenager, Dorcas begins to rebel against her aunt's old-fashioned tastes, and refashions herself as a sexually-desirable woman. Dorcas wants to be looked at and admired and when Joe visits her aunt's house she successfully captures the older man's gaze. The morality of sleeping with a married man who is old enough to be her father does not factor into Dorcas's decision to be with Joe. Like a little girl, she is eager for the gifts that he brings her and she becomes petulant and moody when she does not get her way. However, Dorcas also wants an authority figure and when she realizes that Joe is completely malleable she bores with him quickly. Her new boyfriend, Acton, promises to shape Dorcas and control her, so she allows her identity to be created for her. When Joe shoots Dorcas, she chooses to die in order to be watched, making herself a martyr by bleeding to death rather than going to the hospital. However, Morrison's narrator pieces together the threads of her story to show how Dorcas as one sees her does not correspond with her inside life.