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The Theme of Slavery in the Novel ‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison

Slavery is one of the major distressing issues in society bearing in mind that it negatively impacts on the affected victims. It leaves behind a lasting effect of emotional and physical trauma which results from the past slavery experiences.

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Also, individuals who have survived slavery are normally haunted by past experiences of violence, terrible encounters and emotional trauma they went through while in slavery. This paper examines the theme of slavery from the novel entitled Beloved by Toni Morrison. The theme of slavery has been discussed throughout the paper since it shapes the destiny of the victims highlighted in the story.

A brief overview of slavery

In the novel Beloved, slavery is depicted as a major factor that has played a significant role of profiling the events that surround Sethe’s life as well as the that of her daughter Denver and other members of her family. Slavery has been discussed as one of the worst daily experiences that the victims are going through.

It appears as if their lives and daily well being is being determined by the state of slavery surrounding them. In 1873, eighteen years after escaping from slavery, Sethe did not seem to be free from the effects of slavery bearing in mind that her past actions and hardships of slavery tend to follow her.

Some of the important features of her past that are worth noting include being cruelly and brutally mistreated at Sweet Home where she was a slave, her escape to Cincinnati where she is tracked down by her master, an event that forces her to resort to killing her babies to save them from going through her experiences as a slave and her survival from being hanged after succeeding to kill one child (Morrison 184).

These are traumatizing events and experience in her life that seem to spoil her future. The affair that follows her survival is a visitation by Paul D and Beloved. The latter character who is of significance in the story symbolizes the effects of living in slavery and how relationships between slaves and their families were troubled due to their past life as slaves.

Slavery and its impacts

The story has several similarities to many other slave autobiographies and narratives. For instance, it is evident that the novel clearly expresses the intensely damaging effects of living in slavery. From the narrative, it is evident that slaves experience tough times since they are usually subjected to a myriad of abuses.

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Some of these abuses may range from forced sexual encounters to actual physical harm. In any case, sexual abuse was the cause of Sethe’s first pregnancy. This led her to be separated from the family. Due to boredom and gross emotional breakdown, Sethe ended up killing her child.

Also, Sethe, like most slaves who had undergone harsh mistreatment, could not fight for themselves. The inability to fight for her basic rights as a slave created a lot of anger and frustration in her. Also, she suffered massive emotional distraught which eventually made her feel like an unwanted person in the community.

The presence of the visitor called Beloved embodies the legacy of slavery. Even though Sethe is free, this spirit of slavery manages to follow her 18 years later largely because she went through the grueling experience in her days of slavery.

Morrison notes that besides the reflection of slavery, the story on Beloved also represents an aspect of some past action which brought about the death of a child who has been reborn to haunt Sethe (8). It is imperative to note that the action which Sethe took to kill her child was largely due to parental instinct of love to protect the child from being taken into slavery experience similar to her case.

Therefore, although her past actions could be considered to be ridiculous, it was a clear indication of the dehumanization and brutality of life that she went through while in slavery. In other words, it was vivid that the kind of experience she went through as a slave was indeed traumatizing.

Also, Morrison describes Sethe in the narrative before the arrival of Beloved as hopeful having settled down and working as a cook (17). This was a reprieve for Sethe even though it was much better than the kind of life she led as a slave. However, the presence of the Beloved brings back the emotional and psychological effects of slavery.

These are disturbing memories for Sethe since it only reminds her of the dark past.  It does not help her at all to remember the past. Her past becomes a real stumbling block that impacts on her present relationship with Paul D.

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An intervention from the community to exorcize the dead child’s spirit in Beloved sets her apart from the lingering memories of her life as a slave. Although this action appears to be appealing, it does not eliminate the harsh memories of life in slavery.

Works Cited

Morrison, Toni. Beloved. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987. Print.

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StudyCorgi. (2020, May 8). The Theme of Slavery in the Novel ‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/the-theme-of-slavery-in-the-novel-beloved-by-toni-morrison/

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StudyCorgi. (2020, May 8). The Theme of Slavery in the Novel ‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison. https://studycorgi.com/the-theme-of-slavery-in-the-novel-beloved-by-toni-morrison/

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"The Theme of Slavery in the Novel ‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison." StudyCorgi, 8 May 2020, studycorgi.com/the-theme-of-slavery-in-the-novel-beloved-by-toni-morrison/.

1. StudyCorgi. "The Theme of Slavery in the Novel ‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison." May 8, 2020. https://studycorgi.com/the-theme-of-slavery-in-the-novel-beloved-by-toni-morrison/.


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StudyCorgi. "The Theme of Slavery in the Novel ‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison." May 8, 2020. https://studycorgi.com/the-theme-of-slavery-in-the-novel-beloved-by-toni-morrison/.

References

StudyCorgi. 2020. "The Theme of Slavery in the Novel ‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison." May 8, 2020. https://studycorgi.com/the-theme-of-slavery-in-the-novel-beloved-by-toni-morrison/.

References

StudyCorgi. (2020) 'The Theme of Slavery in the Novel ‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison'. 8 May.

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