Describe how Beloved successfully evokes the sufferings of the slaves that transpired in 18t h century Kentucky and Ohio.
WT 2 CRITICAL ESSAY ON BELOVED BY TONI MORRISON
Prescribed Question: why and How……
Title of the text for analysis: Beloved by Toni Morrison, 1986
Course: part 3 Literature
My critical response will focus on:
- The condition of the slaves in the 18th century America. I will talk about the conditions in America before and after the emancipation act.
- The transportation of the blacks for slave trade from Africa. And what makes Morrison dedicate this novel to the dead slaves. What was the real life incident that inspired Morrison to write this novel.
- The brutality of the white people in the treatment of the slaves. What did they do when slaves tried to run from slavery? And if they accepted the emancipation from their heart? I will also reflect on the identity crisis of the black people. The whites gave the slaves new names thereby erasing their identities as well as history.
- How slavery was responsible in the extermination of 60 million black people. It is interesting to know that many of the deaths occurred when the slaves killed their children at their hands to save their future.
- The treatment of women by their masters. How the women changed hands from one master to the other, bearing children with so many fathers.
- The selling of the blacks just like animals in the slave market. This section will include how children were snatched from their mothers, and sold in the market with a price tag.
- I will talk about a few characters around which the story revolves. I will try to show that these characters were metaphorically more dead than alive.
This is a preview of the whole essay
WORD COUNT 994
The novel “Beloved” is a remarkable novel, part history, and part fiction, written by Toni Morrison in 1987. It depicts how the evil of slavery consumed the black people transported from Africa, and how it made their lives a living hell. One of the main purposes of this novel is to understand the plight of the blacks that suffered from an identity crisis in that era. This essay explores the pathetic conditions of the slaves, a marginalized section of the American society, in the light of setting, conflict and characters as used by Morrison.
The setting of the novel is very conducive to the development of the plot with a view to showing the dehumanization and objectification of the slaves practiced under the name of slavery. Morrison writes about the protagonist of the story Sethe, who lives in house number 124 in rural Ohio, near Cincinnati in 1873. 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. It is through this setting that Morrison gives us a horrible picture of the violence inflicted on the slaves. Sethe with a number of other slaves is tortured brutally. Fed up with persecution and brutality, Sethe makes an attempt to flee from here, but unfortunately she is caught. As a punishment, she is humiliated, and the white slave owners suck her milk. She is flayed alive despite her being six-month-pregnant. Her husband Halle is helpless, and he is psychologically so much shaken by the figurative rape of his wife, that he becomes insane. Morrison’s novel raises a question: can a social injustice as big as slavery be perpetrated in the name of color and skin?
Sethe is a woman with "iron eyes and a backbone to match.” She flees again, and reaches Ohio in the house of her mother in law, Baby Suggs. Baby Suggs is another character that has been dehumanized by slavery. She has been a slave for the last sixty years, and has led such a life that is heart rending. She bears eight children with six different fathers. All her children but one are sold into slavery without her ever having a chance to bid them goodbye. The embittered fate of Sethe is the last straw that breaks Baby Suggs’ back. She dies a slow death fully convinced that “there was no bad luck in this world but white folks."
It is here in “124” that one of the most unfortunate events of Sethe’s life is in store for her. In order to save her children from imposed slavery she makes an attempt to kill all her four children, but succeeds in killing the two-year-old “Beloved” only. Through the character of Sethe, Morrison evokes the feelings of pity and fear in the reader, and the reader can sympathize with Sethe’s attempt of killing her own children. Sethe may not have been the only woman to attempt this. Possibly, this period of slavery exterminated the black section of the society to a great extent.
The novel is based on a real life incident that took place in 1855, when a slave woman “Mrs. Garner” fled from Kentucky to Ohio, and tried to kill all her four children in order to save them from a white slave catcher. The slaves were nothing but an object, a prey or a possession. Morrison wants to draw the attention of the reader to the fact that the slaves had no identity of their own. They are known in the society by their names as printed on the bills of sale. There are many characters in the novel that are given names and are therefore bereft of their identity. For example there are companions with Sethe named Paul A, Paul D, Paul F, Thirty-Mile woman, Stamp Paid, whose real identities have been consumed by slavery. Part Two-Chapter 23 predominantly deals with the theme of identity crisis when the reader hears, "You are mine/You are mine/You are mine" without being able to understand who the speaker is out of Sethe, Denver and Beloved. Even the name “Beloved” is no name. It was coined when Sethe had sex with the Mason at the time of burial, when the mason uttered “Dear Beloved.” Thus, most of the characters born into or out of slavery suffer from identity crisis.
Morrison is very successful in exposing the vulnerable and pathetic conditions of the slaves by showing the conflict brewing in their hearts. Their atrocious past hauls them, and more than living in the present they live in the past. Paul D is haunted by his past in the prison. He feels that he has lost his heart during the time of slavery and all he has is a tin of tobacco enclosed in his ribs. Sethe is lost in the contemplation of her act of killing her daughter, and justifying it. Beloved is all interested in the past of Sethe, and is determined to haunt her without ever forgiving her for what she did in the past. The stream of consciousness technique aided by the flashback helps the reader understand that the past of these characters is so sinister that they seem to be suspended in the limbo, or a purgatory from where there is no escape.
To conclude, the novel “Beloved” successfully evokes the sufferings of the slaves that transpired in the 18th century Kentucky and Ohio. By portraying the condition of the slaves Morrison makes the readers aware of the social and political conditions existing in America, a factor that marginalized all the blacks of the American society. Morrison dedicates the novel to the 60 million slaves who lost their lives in America on account of the evil of racism, slavery and discrimination.