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Theme of slavery in Beloved by Toni Morrison

Beloved by Toni Morrison is the ultimate representation of the consequences and repercussions of slavery. Slavery that had been a major issue in the United States had a major impact on the lives of the Black Africans who were traded like commodities. In Beloved, the characters struggle to come out of their haunting experiences of their past lives as slaves. The character of Schoolteacher, who is a slave owner, treats them like animals. School teacher’s nephews harassing Sethe and stealing her breastmilk degrades her humanity while treating hr like a cow. Paul D loses his self-confidence and wonders if he could ever be considered as a real person. This feeling of insecurity comes from years of experiencing ill treatment from his master. These experiences have made them loathe themselves. Slavery has limited their opportunities to be a true human. The characters have turned into mere depressed beings who have almost lost all the hopes in life. Paul D develops coping mechanism to protect himself from the harsh situations of his time as a slave. He dismissed the feelings and locked them away in the rusted ‘tobacco-tin’ of his heart, and started believing that one should never love anything too intensely. Other slaves like Halle, Jackson Till and Aunt Phyllis turned insane due to such tortures.

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Sethe too believes that eventually she would turn insane. She murders her daughter Beloved, to save her from the life of slavery. Slavery has such a devastating impact on these lives that a mother killed her infant just to save her baby from the life she had lived. In slavery, even the murder of the child demonstrates mother’s love and protection for it.
Slavery breaks up families. Sethe cannot remember her mother as for slaves it is a norm for the children to be sold off to work farther. Where slavery exists, nothing but pain and torment follow in rhythm. The white supremacy demonstrated against the Blacks have led into a very dirty history of torment and subjugation in the US. Several quotes have been found in the novel which tell us about the darker side of the white skinned people.

White people believed that whatever the manners, under every dark skin was a jungle. Swift unnavigable waters, swinging screaming baboons, sleeping snakes, red gums ready for their sweet white blood. In a way he thought, they were right… But it wasn’t the jungle Blacks brought with them to this place from the other place. It was the jungle whitefolks planted in them.

Chapter 19
Beloved Blog : Blog Post #5 - Slavery and its Psychological Effect

With such quotation, it can be understood that the black history of slavery has been implanted by the rich and privileged whites who have a very ignorant behavior towards the Blacks. Morrison has been successful in implementing the struggles of the slaves even after achieving freedom. Even though the novel titled after Sethe’s dead daughter, Toni Morrison beautifully presents the struggles of all the slaves and the kinds of lives they are living after experiencing freedom. It is seen that the traumas of their past lives have let an everlasting impact on their lives. Such an impact can hardly be detached from these vulnerable lives.

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