• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Representation of slavery in 'Beloved' by Toni Morrison

Extracts from this document...


Representation of slavery in 'Beloved' by Toni Morrison Those who are unfamiliar with the raw concept of what the institution of slavery was will consider its role in 'Beloved' as truly disturbing and psychologically horrifying. In a modern world where slavery has become a distant concept that is virtually non-existent, it no longer has a true identity. In this novel, we are shown how slavery cannot be simply defined as the trade in people, but as the manipulation of their emotions and freedom by others who held power over them. 'Beloved' reveals slavery in its purest form, what it really was at its most powerful and how it left former slaves mentally shattered even after it was abolished. The novel is very complex and the theme of slavery works on a number of levels. Within the text, it is rich in historical detail regarding slavery by cataloguing atrocities of slavery, with the purpose of highlighting its harsh reality. Slavery as a theme is explored in 'Beloved' through the traumatic experiences of former slaves and despite being physically free, their past continues to haunt them. Through the paraphernalia of slavery in the novel, Morrison is aiming to educate the reader slavery in its totality. Morrison does this through teaching the reader about slavery, almost as a history lesson and by giving it characteristics that tell the reader what it was like. ...read more.


This is certainly true of Schoolteacher who seems to command respect as he feels superior, however, by doing this he is just proving how inhumane people like him are and in spite of his education the slaves are superior to him. Sethe is left psychologically scarred by the trauma of what was inflicted upon her and will not allow her children to suffer like she had as a slave: - 'That anybody white could take your whole self for anything that came to mind... Dirty you so bad you couldn't like yourself anymore. Dirty you so bad you forgot who you were and couldn't think it up.. the best thing was, her children. Whites might dirt her all right, but not her best thing'. The repetition of 'Dirty you..' calls attention to Sethes feelings of her no longer being herself anymore. So when the threat of Schoolteacher taking her 'best thing' away from her into a world she did not want her children to experience, she makes the ultimate decision. Sethe was determined not to allow Schoolteacher take her children: - 'I have felt what it felt like and nobody.. is going to make you feel it too. Not you, not none of mine, and when I tell you you mine, I mean I'm yours.' ...read more.


Forgetting is repeated again in the chapter to emphasize its importance and making the past into 'an unpleasant dream'. It is through Beloved that Sethe finds an inner peace. Morrison is reinforcing the message to many black Americans that like Sethe they must achieve their own inner peace. They must learn to forget the past as stated 'Remembering seemed unwise.', so to remember the past will achieve nothing but looking to the future they will also achieve their own freedom. Morrison emphasizes the need for the black community not to teach the future generations the mistakes of the past through repetition of the single line 'It was not a story to pass on.'at two separate points of the chapter. The characters in the novel that had any contact with Beloved did this as they realised that to remember too much would be a mistake. In a paragraph after the second time this line is repeated, Morrison warns the black American reader: - 'This is not a story to pass on'. This single statement is of a much more blunt and threatening tone and acts as a final warning. Essentially, what Morrison is saying is that eventually the past can be forgotten and then a future can be achieved. Slavery was their past and not the future. It was harsh and brutal for their forefathers whom were the victims of an inhumane institution but that doesn't mean the future has to be their past too. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our International Baccalaureate World Literature section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related International Baccalaureate World Literature essays

  1. 100 plus maketing plan

    product in vending machines and school stores, while still keeping the personal touch our IBO's bring to the business. Vending machines make up 11% of the market segment, which can greatly increase our sales. Our plan is to increase awareness and knowledge, but do not make the company as large

  2. Questions and answers on "Cry, the beloved country".

    In addition to that, by helping Kumalo, James is actually helping the whole town and not just Kumalo specifically. Because of these reasons, James decides to help a person whose son killed Arthur. 8. If you had to pick a character (other than Kumalo)

  1. Beloved by Toni Morrison is a vivid picture of the cruelty of slavery. ...

    " She is mine , .....she came back to me of her own free will .........Paul D ran her off so she has no choice but to come back to me in flesh" Sethe as a black slave could not emancipate herself from the dark memories that kept on chasing her even after these long years of freedom.

  2. Joyce Carol Oates, New York Review of books , Volume 53, Number 17 ...

    of many, and must be seen within the broad outlines of the moment in history of which she was a part" (pg.

  1. In the novel The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison writes of a community in Lorain, ...

    When everyone in town finds out that Cholly raped Pecola, she gets teased and is stigmatized even more. Pecola then goes to a local mystic to request that he give her blue eyes so she can have the beauty she needs and deserves.

  2. "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison. During this passage, Claudia describes a childhood memory ...

    For her parents, which are used by Toni Morrison to represent the values and ideas of the black community, Claudia should be found of her present because the doll represents what they believe beauty is. This passage creates a strong contrast between society and individuality and is very important to understand the society in which the characters live.

  1. Describe how Beloved successfully evokes the sufferings of the slaves that transpired in 18t ...

    The house is haunted, and full of the cries of the dead slaves. It is the place where the Beloved comes back in the human form to claim her mother, Sethe. The place introduces the reader to the character of Sethe, who always thinks of the ?Sweet Home? where she was sold as a slave in her childhood.

  2. The effect of historical allusions in the History Boys

    In this case, the light which these historical allusions paint him do not mark him as the villain of the book, but rather, they help show a fuller picture of Irwin, especially when considering his later helplessness at Dakin?s advances.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work