God Help The Child Summary & Study Guide

Toni Morrison

God Help The Child

  • 48-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 13 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a literary scholar with over a decade of teaching experience
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God Help The Child Summary & Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 48-page guide for “God Help The Child” by Toni Morrison includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 13 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like The Effects of Racism and Colorism and The Contradiction of Justice.

Plot Summary

God Help the Child, the eleventh novel by critically-acclaimed writer Toni Morrison, was published in 2015. This guide is based on the 2015 Kindle book published by Borzoi Books, an Alfred A. Knopf imprint. One of Morrison’s few works with a contemporary setting and cast of characters, the novel explores themes related to the impact of racism and colorism on children, the prevalence of trauma such as child sexual abuse in the lives of children, and the harsh reality of mothering and childhood in a world marred by racism and violence.

Part 1of the novel opens with Sweetness, who explains that her poor treatment of Lula Ann (called “Bride” in the present), her dark-skinned daughter, was not her fault because racism forced her to prepare the child for a hard life. Morrison introduces Bride, the protagonist, as a beautiful, glamorous woman who is unable to move on after Booker Stabern, her lover, abruptly leaves her. Bride attempts to burnish her self-esteem by taking money, an air-travel voucher, and make-up to Sofia Huxley, a woman convicted of child sexual abuse charges in part based on false testimony Bride gave 15 years prior. Unable to recover psychologically after the attack, Bride obsesses over Booker and tries to ignore the fact that her body is physically reverting to that of a pre-pubescent girl.

In Part 2 of the novel, Bride discovers that Booker’s forwarding address is in a small town called Whiskey, so she heads out in her Jaguar to find him. Bride rams her car into a tree on a country road and is forced to recuperate for six weeks with a hippie couple and their feral foster daughter, Rain, who shares stories about her life as a child sex worker before her foster parents rescued her. Bride leaves the family after six weeks and finishes her journey to Whiskey.

In Part 3, Booker, who has been absent for most of the narrative, assumes center stage. Booker is the product of a family that fractured after Adam, Booker’s older brother, was kidnapped and killed by a sexual predator. Booker became a graduate student of economics years later and ended his relationship with his family over his refusal to let go of his brother. Bookers meets and instantly falls in love with Bride at a concert. Booker’s idealistic romance with Bride, told in flashbacks, ends abruptly when Booker is disgusted by Bride’s plan to meet Sofia (he is not aware of Bride’s false testimony).

In Part 4 of the novel, Booker and Bride reunite after listening to the advice of Queen Olive, an aunt with whom Booker stays after leaving Bride and breaking his arm. Queen Olive sustains serious burns in a fire she set, and Booker and Bride bond as they watch over her. When Queen Olive dies, the two bury her and Bride announces that she is pregnant with Booker’s child. At the end of the novel, the two have decided to stay together, and Sweetness predicts a rude awakening for Bride as Bride attempts to become a mother.

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