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Thematic Essay On Slavery

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SparkNotes: Beloved: Themes, Motifs & Symbols

Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.

Slavery’s Destruction of Identity

Beloved explores the physical, emotional, and spiritual devastation wrought by slavery, a devastation that continues to haunt those characters who are former slaves even in freedom. The most dangerous of slavery’s effects is its negative impact on the former slaves’ senses of self, and the novel contains multiple examples of self-alienation. Paul D, for instance, is so alienated from himself that at one point he cannot tell whether the screaming he hears is his own or someone else’s. Slaves were told they were subhuman and were traded as commodities whose worth could be expressed in dollars. Consequently, Paul D is very insecure about whether or not he could possibly be a real “man,” and he frequently wonders about his value as a person.

Sethe. also, was treated as a subhuman. She once walked in on schoolteacher giving his pupils a lesson on her “animal characteristics.” She, too, seems to be alienated from herself and filled with self-loathing. Thus, she sees the best part of herself as her children. Yet her children also have volatile, unstable identities. Denver conflates her identity with Beloved’s, and Beloved feels herself actually beginning to physically disintegrate. Slavery has also limited Baby Suggs’s self-conception by shattering her family and denying her the opportunity to be a true wife, sister, daughter, or loving mother.

As a result of their inability to believe in their own existences, both Baby Suggs and Paul D become depressed and tired. Baby Suggs’s fatigue is spiritual, while Paul D’s is emotional. While a slave, Paul D developed self-defeating coping strategies to protect him from the emotional pain he was forced to endure. Any feelings he had were locked away in the rusted “tobacco tin” of his heart, and he concluded that one should love nothing too intensely. Other slaves—Jackson Till, Aunt Phyllis, and Halle—went insane and thus suffered a complete loss of self. Sethe fears that she, too, will end her days in madness. Indeed, she does prove to be mad when she kills her own daughter. Yet Sethe’s act of infanticide illuminates the perverse forces of the institution of slavery: under slavery, a mother best expresses her love for her children by murdering them and thus protecting them from the more gradual destruction wrought by slavery.

Stamp Paid muses that slavery’s negative consequences are not limited to the slaves: he notes that slavery causes whites to become “changed and altered. made. bloody, silly, worse than they ever wanted to be.” The insidious effects of the institution affect not only the identities of its black victims but those of the whites who perpetrate it and the collective identity of Americans. Where slavery exists, everyone suffers a loss of humanity and compassion. For this reason, Morrison suggests that our nation’s identity, like the novel’s characters, must be healed. America’s future depends on its understanding of the past: just as Sethe must come to terms with her past before she can secure a future with Denver and Paul D, before we can address slavery’s legacy in the contemporary problems of racial discrimination and discord, we must confront the dark and hidden corners of our history. Crucially, in Beloved, we learn about the history and legacy of slavery not from schoolteacher’s or even from the Bodwins’ point of view but rather from Sethe’s, Paul D’s, Stamp Paid’s, and Baby Suggs’s. Morrison writes history with the voices of a people historically denied the power of language, and Beloved recuperates a history that had been lost—either due to willed forgetfulness (as in Sethe’s repression of her memories) or to forced silence (as in the case of Paul D’s iron bit).

The Importance of Community Solidarity

Beloved demonstrates the extent to which individuals need the support of their communities in order to survive. Sethe first begins to develop her sense of self during her twenty-eight days of freedom, when she becomes a part of the Cincinnati community. Similarly, Denver discovers herself and grows up when she leaves 124 and becomes a part of society. Paul D and his fellow prison inmates in Georgia prove able to escape only by working together. They are literally chained to one another, and Paul D recalls that “if one lost, all lost.” Lastly, it is the community that saves Sethe from mistakenly killing Mr. Bodwin and casting the shadow of another sin across her and her family’s life.

Cincinnati’s black community plays a pivotal role in the events of 124. The community’s failure to alert Sethe to schoolteacher’s approach implicates it in the death of Sethe’s daughter. Baby Suggs feels the slight as a grave betrayal from which she never fully recovers. At the end of the novel, the black community makes up for its past misbehavior by gathering at 124 to collectively exorcise Beloved. By driving Beloved away, the community secures Sethe’s, and its own, release from the past.

The Powers and Limits of Language

When Sixo turns schoolteacher’s reasoning around to justify having broken the rules, schoolteacher whips him to demonstrate that “definitions belong to the definers,” not to the defined. The slaves eventually come to realize the illegitimacy of many of the white definitions. Mr. Garner, for example, claims to have allowed his slaves to live as “real men,” but Paul D questions just how manly they actually are. So, too, does Paul D finally come to realize with bitter irony the fallacy of the name “Sweet Home.” Although Sixo eventually reacts to the hypocrisy of the rhetoric of slavery by abandoning English altogether, other characters use English to redefine the world on their own terms. Baby Suggs and Stamp Paid, for example, rename themselves. Beloved may be read as Morrison’s effort to transform those who have always been the defined into the definers.

While slaves, the characters manipulate language and transcend its standard limits. Their command of language allows them to adjust its meanings and to make themselves indecipherable to the white slave owners who watch them. For example, Paul D and the Georgia prison inmates sing together about their dreams and memories by “garbling. [and] tricking the words.”

The title of the novel alludes to what is ultimately the product of a linguistic misunderstanding. At her daughter’s funeral, Sethe interpreted the minister’s address to the “Dearly Beloved” as referring to the dead rather than the living. All literature is indebted to this “slippery,” shifting quality of language: the power of metaphor, simile, metonymy, irony, and wordplay all result from the ability of words to attach and detach themselves from various possible meanings.

Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.

The Supernatural

Morrison enhances the world of Beloved by investing it with a supernatural dimension. While it is possible to interpret the book’s paranormal phenomena within a realist framework, many events in the novel—most notably, the presence of a ghost—push the limits of ordinary understanding. Moreover, the characters in Beloved do not hesitate to believe in the supernatural status of these events. For them, poltergeists, premonitions, and hallucinations are ways of understanding the significance of the world around them. Such occurrences stand in marked contrast to schoolteacher’s perverse hyper-“scientific” and empirical studies.

Allusions to Christianity

Beloved ’s epigraph, taken from Romans 9:25, bespeaks the presence that Christian ideas will have in the novel. The “four horsemen” who come for Sethe reference the description of the Apocalypse found in the Book of Revelations. Beloved is reborn into Sethe’s world drenched in a sort of baptismal water. As an infant, Denver drinks her sister’s blood along with her mother’s breast milk, which can be interpreted as an act of Communion that links Denver and Beloved and that highlights the sacrificial aspect of the baby’s death. Sethe’s act so horrifies schoolteacher that he leaves without taking her other children, allowing them to live in freedom. The baby’s sacrificial death, like that of Christ, brings salvation. The book’s larger discussions of sin, sacrifice, redemption, forgiveness, love, and resurrection similarly resound with biblical references.

Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.

The Color Red

Colors from the red part of the spectrum (including orange and pink) recur throughout Beloved, although the meaning of these red objects varies. Amy Denver’s red velvet, for example, is an image of hope and a brighter future, while Paul D’s “red heart” represents feeling and emotion. Overall, red seems to connote vitality and the visceral nature of human existence. Yet, in Beloved, vitality often goes hand in hand with mortality, and red images simultaneously refer to life and death, to presence and absence. For example, the red roses that line the road to the carnival serve to herald the carnival’s arrival in town and announce the beginning of Sethe, Denver, and Paul D’s new life together; yet they also stink of death. The red rooster signifies manhood to Paul D, but it is a manhood that Paul D himself has been denied. The story of Amy’s search for carmine velvet seems especially poignant because we sense the futility of her dream. Sethe’s memory is awash with the red of her daughter’s blood and the pink mineral of her gravestone, both of which have been bought at a dear price.

In the world of Beloved, trees serve primarily as sources of healing, comfort, and life. Denver’s “emerald closet” of boxwood bushes functions as a place of solitude and repose for her. The beautiful trees of Sweet Home mask the true horror of the plantation in Sethe’s memory. Paul D finds his freedom by following flowering trees to the North, and Sethe finds hers by escaping through a forest. By imagining the scars on Sethe’s back as a “chokecherry tree,” Amy Denver sublimates a site of trauma and brutality into one of beauty and growth. But as the sites of lynchings and of Sixo’s death by burning, however, trees reveal a connection with a darker side of humanity as well.

The Tin Tobacco Box

Paul D describes his heart as a “tin tobacco box.” After his traumatizing experiences at Sweet Home and, especially, at the prison camp in Alfred, Georgia, he locks away his feelings and memories in this “box,” which has, by the time Paul D arrives at 124, “rusted” over completely. By alienating himself from his emotions, Paul D hopes to preserve himself from further psychological damage. In order to secure this protection, however, Paul D sacrifices much of his humanity by foregoing feeling and gives up much of his selfhood by repressing his memories. Although Paul D is convinced that nothing can pry the lid of his box open, his strange, dreamlike sexual encounter with Beloved—perhaps a symbol of an encounter with his past—causes the box to burst and his heart once again to glow red.

Next: Part One: Chapter 1  

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Slavery Essay

Free Essays Must Be Free! TM Slavery Term paper

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Slavery
The Slaves’ And The Slaveowners’ Views Of Slavery “That face of his, the hungry cannibals Would not have touched, would not have stained with blood;-- But you are more inhuman.

“Does white mean you are good”? Slavery in the Deep South was a controversial issue around 1840 in the United States. There were plantation owners who’s success depended on slaves many people in the south-owned slaves ;it was considered a part of society. Furthermore, plantation owners, owned sometimes hundreds, many families were split apart, and lifetime relationships were broken. It is in this setting when Mark Twain wrote the novel Huckleberry Finn. The slavery controversy is a central theme in

Slavery
A former slave during the antebellum era, Lewis Clarke, said, “How would you like to see your sisters, and your wives, and your daughter, completely, teetotally, and altogether, in the.

the novel. One of the main characters in the novel is named Jim ;he is a slave working on miss Watson’s farm. One night he is gazing at the stars and Tom sawyer and Huck Finn, decide to play a trick on him. Jim nods off and the boys place his hat in a tree. This is an example of how Tom and Huck think Jim is less of a man because of the color of his skin Also they

Slavery in the Bible
Does the Bible Condone Slavery? Slavery in the New World caused one of the greatest controversies of modern times. People have used the Bible to argue for and.

do not respect him, and they can’t bring to apologize to a slave. A slave was not considered a person, but a piece of property. Towards the middle of the novel huck and Jim decide to escape. They both meet up on an island ;called Jackson’s Island on the Mississippi river they find a cave to stay in for a wile. Huck finds a rattlesnake there and decides to kill it. Not knowing that it will come back and bite

Plantation Slavery
Slave Life The warm climate, boundless fields of fertile soil, long growing seasons, and numerous waterways provided favorable conditions for farming plantations in the South (Foster). The richness of the.

Jim in the arm. This time huck felt bad, but could not bring himself that low to say sorry to a black man.

The rest of the paper is available free of charge to our registered users. The registration process just couldn't be easier. Log in or register now. It is all free!

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Amy Tan and Maya Angelou Compare and Contrast Essay


Authors Amy Tan and Maya Angelou both show their feelings in personal narratives “ Champion of the World “ and “Fish Cheeks”. In the story “Fish Cheeks” it describes a young American Asian girl who invites her crush over for a traditional Asian Christmas Eve dinner. Her grandparents embarrass her by eating fast and eating sloppy. Her mom makes an embarrassing comment and tells it to the whole table. At the end of the story she finds out later in her life that the dinner helped her and the comment her mom made to her helped her later on in life. In both of the stories, the authors share embarrassment and happiness. They both tell their stories in a unique way.

Both authors come from different culture backgrounds. Amy Tan comes from an American Asian background while Maya Angelou comes from an African American background. They both have similar themes of writing. While her Asian background and the way embarrassed growing up in America Amy Tan she looked, as an Asian. As in the chapter “Champion of the World” Maya Angelou describes a young African American who is fighting for boxing World Championship match. He over comes hateful words and ends up beating the white guy in the championship.

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Essay - Main Themes is - Beloved - by Toni Morrison

by Toni Morrison

“Beloved” is one of the best and most popular works in the African-American literature and it involves a great suggestion of anger towards many social problems of that time, such as slavery, African American cultural identity and many others.

One of the main themes of “Beloved” is the problem of race and effects of slavery 1. Much of the novel focuses on a community of ex-slaves and how they manage to get back to normal with their lives. The novel questions, through the eyes of a teacher, what the difference is between a man and an animal. In its realistic description of the Negro community, complete with their hopes and problems, the novel shows that a colored man is like any other man. The novel also asks whether it is better to suffer the injustices of a cruel people or to fight against them.

Closely tied to the theme of race is that of the past. Each of the characters have had a furious past, complete with the worst horrors imaginable. Sethe has been raped and forced to murder, Paul D has been imprisoned in a cube, Stamp Paid was forced to give his wife away to be a sex toy, and the list goes on and on. Many of these men and women have chosen, like Sethe and Paul D, to forget the past. Others worked actively against it, like Stamp Paid. However, no peace appears for any of the characters until each learns to accept and deal with the past (which is very alive in the present). Only then can a future be found.

Another theme in “Beloved” is that of the banality of evil. Slavery is not just an institution, it is a philosophy and way of thinkig which has many and deep consequences. The Garners treated their slaves well, and as a result were respected by people like Sethe and Paul D. However, as Paul D later comes to realize, "Everything rested on Garner being alive. Without his life each of theirs fell to pieces." Though treated nicely, the Negroes on Sweet Home were little more than toys to be used by the Garners. The theme also comes up in the description of the Bodwin's household, which includes the statue of a black boy and the words "At Yo Service." The Bodwins fail to comprehend the thoughts behind that statue. With such images, Morrison demonstrates the extent of slavery and what must be done to abolish it completely.

Moral ambiguity. of course, plays a large role in the novel. The question of "Was the murder right or wrong?" appears many times in the book. The answer finally reached is that it was the right thing to do, but Sethe didn't have the right to do it. Had she not murdered Beloved, she and all the children would have been sold back into slavery. Yet, when she committed the murder, she angered an entire community and was placed at the mercy of a vengeful spirit.

The novel also asks what it means to be free. Was Baby Suggs truly free, when

1 The institution of slavery destroyed much of the heritage of the Africans brought to the Americas; the novel partially recounts the creation of a new people and culture, a people displaced and forced to forge a new identity in the face of brutality and dehumanization.

white men were allowed to barge into her yard at any time? Was Paul D free, though he wasn't allowed to love whatever he wanted to love? Were any of the Negroes truly free, who had to wait at the back of the supermarket for the whites to be served before they could get their groceries? Freedom, Morrison points out, is more than a matter of not belonging to a single master.

The concept of family also pervades the novel. Most of the slaves have been torn apart from their families at an early age, and there is little hope in discovering what is left of their families. The consequences of this type of separation can be seen in Sethe, who is possessive of her children, and Paul D, who is determined not to love anything too much.
One thematic point underlying her writing in Beloved is her preoccupation with community. and the need to write in a way which has a political purpose: If anything she does, in the way of writing novels or whatever. isn't about the village or the community or about people, then it isn't about anything. She is not interested in indulging herself in some private exercise of her imagination. which is to say, the work must be political.
Toni Morrison, and other Negro women writers, have been trying to develop a new type of novel, one which represents the hopes, aspirations, and historical memories of colored women. African American women struggle under a double burden: that of racial prejudice and that of a male-centred society. While black men may have created a literature about the former, it has been left to black women to analyse the whole of the latter situation.

Beloved is extremely possessive of her sister, not allowing Sethe to assist in caring for the young woman when she is ill. She treasures her time alone with Beloved while Sethe is at work in the restaurant more than anything in her life at that point. She is driven by a hunger to know about the mysterious history of her sister; a hunger that cannot be satisfied by her responses to Sethe and Paul D's simple questions. She furthermore appears to be completely devastated, throwing herself into a blinding and violent rage in the midst of the cold house. It is an attraction that evidently lies in something more complex and difficult to understand than mere sisterly love; it lies rather in the sense of desperation on Denver's part to be essentially one with Beloved.
Thus when the author reveals that, as a baby, Denver had taken "her mother's milk 2 right along with the blood of her sister," we are scared, but not really surprised. What are the implications of this? Of course all brothers and sisters share the same family blood, but what does it mean for one to take that blood by means of the mouth? This is in a way very similar to the taking of Christ's blood in the sacrament of communion. The wine that Catholics drink symbolizes the blood of Jesus, his death, and the consequent giving of himself to us and for us. As a result, Catholics are expected, according to their religion, to live their lives in the ways of Christ, striving ultimately to be one with him; to hunger for him. Denver, as a very young and innocent child, had desired the milk of her mother and instead had been fed the blood of her deceased sister. Her hunger had been satiated by the taste of her sister rather than her mother; an everlasting tie had been formed. Tragically through this, which we as outsiders alone are

2 Beloved is critically scrutinized for its “obviously symbolic story” and not adequately appreciated for the vivid metaphors, imperative to the understanding of post-civil war slavery (Rumens). The numerous reference's to Sethe's “stolen milk” could be one of the images that Carol Rumens attacks in her critique for being “overly symbolic”.

able to see, we know that Denver can never be truly satisfied in her desires. What she longs for is a place within her sister, a place that is simply not within her reach. She had not known it then, nor is there any way for her to see it now: the seed of Beloved had been planted within Denver, and there it will continue to grow.

“Beloved” explores the physical, emotional, and spiritual devastation wrought by slavery, a devastation that continues to haunt those characters who are former slaves even in freedom. The most dangerous of slavery’s effects is its negative impact on the former slaves’ senses of self, and the novel contains multiple examples of self-alienation.Paul D. for instance, is so alienated from himself that at one point he cannot tell whether the screaming he hears is his own or someone else’s. Slaves were told they were subhuman and were traded as commodities whose worth could be expressed in dollars. Consequently, Paul D is very insecure about whether or not he could possibly be a real man, and he frequently wonders about his value as a person. As a result of their inability to believe in their own existences, both Baby Suggs and Paul D become depressed and tired. Baby Suggs’s fatigue is spiritual, while Paul D’s is emotional.

“Beloved” demonstrates the extent to which individuals need the support of their communities in order to survive. Sethe first begins to develop her sense of self during her twenty-eight days of freedom, when she becomes a part of the Cincinnati community. Similarly, Denver discovers herself and grows up when she leaves 124 and becomes a part of society. Paul D and his fellow prison inmates in Georgia prove able to escape only by working together. They are literally chained to one another, and Paul D recalls that “if one lost, all lost.” Lastly, it is the community that saves Sethe from mistakenly killing Mr. Bodwin and casting the shadow of another sin across her and her family’s life.

Cincinnati’s black community plays a pivotal role in the events of 124. The community’s failure to alert Sethe to schoolteacher’s approach implicates it in the death of Sethe’s daughter. At the end of the novel, the black community makes up for its past misbehavior by gathering at 124 to collectively exorcise Beloved. By driving Beloved away, the community secures Sethe’s, and its own, release from the past.

Morrison enhances the world of Beloved by investing it with a supernatural dimension. While it is possible to interpret the book’s paranormal phenomena within a realist framework, many events in the novel (most notably, the presence of a ghost) push the limits of ordinary understanding. Moreover, the characters in Beloved do not hesitate to believe in the supernatural status of these events. For them, poltergeists, premonitions, and hallucinations are ways of understanding the significance of the world around them. Such occurrences stand in marked contrast to schoolteacher’s perverse hyper-“scientific” and empirical studies.

Beloved ’s epigraph, taken from Romans 9:25. bespeaks the presence that Christian ideas will have in the novel. The “four horsemen” who come for Sethe reference the description of the Apocalypse found in the Book of Revelations. Beloved is reborn into Sethe’s world drenched in a sort of baptismal water. As an infant, Denver drinks her sister’s blood along with her mother’s breast milk, which can be interpreted as an act of Communion that links Denver and Beloved and that highlights the sacrificial aspect of the baby’s death. Sethe’s act so horrifies schoolteacher that he leaves without taking her other children, allowing them to live in freedom. The baby’s sacrificial death, like that of Christ, brings salvation. The book’s larger discussions of sin, sacrifice, redemption, forgiveness, love, and resurrection similarly resound with biblical references.

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