Racism is a major issue in “Beloved” by Toni Morrison. Twenty years after killing her kid to escape slavery, Sethe, the main character and a former slave on the plantation of Sweet Home, now resides in a home at 124 Bluestone Road with her daughter Denver, who is 18 years old. Due to her traumatic history and because of rumours that the house is haunted, the neighbours avoid paying her a visit. Former slave companion of Sethe, Paul D, pays her a visit and resides with them. Paul D. and Sethe live together as husband and wife. Exorcism is carried out by Paul D, who also forces the ghost to leave the occupants of the house alone. Sethe yearns for the child she murdered. She wants her back so she can explain herself.
A strange 20-year-old named Beloved showed up at Sethe’s door, and she recognised her right away. Despite her best efforts, she and her mother have an acrimonious relationship. Denver leaves the house when she discovers her mother is dying and seeks assistance. Finally, Beloved vanishes as the neighbours come to their aid.
How Toni Morrison depicts slavery and racism?
Novelist Toni Morrison takes aim at slavery and the racism that resulted, as well as the oppression of the African-American people. She was aware of the exodus of former slaves and their descendants because she was an African American herself. She has used the story of Sethe and her family to show the treatment of slaves in the past. The real-life story of Margaret Garner served as the inspiration for Morrison’s novel. Slave Margaret killed her own kid to prevent the child from becoming a slave. Sethe and her real-life role model, Margaret, thought death was more lovely and pleasant than servitude. Living as a slave in those days was like living as an animal.
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The Atlantic slave trade introduced slaves to the United States. They were brought to America by Europeans to labour on sugar and tobacco plantations after being purchased in Africa. In the past, slaves were viewed as the property of their owners. They were deprived of any legal protections. Owners reaped the financial benefits when they multiplied. As a result, many slaves opted to die than remain enslaved.
Morrison examines the plight of slaves and the consequences of slavery’s abolition following the American Civil War. Slaves on the idyllic home plantation in ‘Beloved’ are ruthlessly torn apart, beaten, and otherwise treated like animals.
How Toni Morrison depicts the flight of female slaves?
Morrison has brought to light the plight of all the female slaves who were not treated as human beings through the story of Sethe. As a result of Sethe’s maltreatment and mistreatment, she is compelled to flee and kill her baby. In this story, Morrison has unearthed and brought to light the lives of slaves that have been largely ignored and forgotten. In Beloved, based on a true story, slavery is reinvented.
The novel takes place a few years after the end of the civil war. Sethe, Paul D, and Baby Suggs are among the slaves employed on Mr. and Mrs. Garner’s plantation. Mr Garner treated his slaves with respect and love. Despite the fact that he granted them some rights, they did not have access to the freedoms enjoyed by free men.
When Mr. Garner died and the plantation was given to the schoolteacher, everything changed. He was a vile individual. He thrashed them with whips and tortured them. Disrespectful and dehumanising treatment was meted out to slaves. For whatever they did, he slammed them. He was not a fan of their eating habits or conversation style. As a result of this savagery, slaves were killed and Sethe was eventually able to flee.
Even though everyone was subjected to some form of violence, it was Seth who had to bear the brunt of it. She was raped and abused in the course of her treatment. As a regular prank on his nephews, the teacher would lash her in front of her peers. She was violated and her naked body was witnessed.
Sethe also mentions in the narrative that her breast milk was taken away when she was pregnant, thereby denying her baby sustenance. Despite the physical anguish, she was emotionally traumatised by the occurrence of her breast milk being taken away by the nephews of the schoolteacher who raped her.
She committed infanticide as a result of the abuse she endured. A mother’s decision to murder her child is not an easy one. In no way can it be justified. Sethe’s life as a slave had a profound psychological impact on her, and she did not want her children to suffer like her. We cannot tell for sure that Sethe was the one who killed the infant, but we can assume that slavery had a hand in it. She killed the child because she was distraught and frustrated. Because she was a good mother, she did it.
Sethe was imprisoned as a result of the incident. It is ironic that she ended up in prison after fleeing slavery. Morrison, on the other hand, wished to bring attention to the reality that she cannot escape her fate even after fleeing. She is a black woman, and as such, she must lead a black woman’s life.
Even after slavery was abolished, life for freed people continued to be miserable. Sethe was exiled from society because of her actions. For killing her child, she was branded an outcast and had to live with the repercussions of her actions for the rest of her life. She is ensnared in a time loop. Even if he does everything he can to forget the past and lead a regular life, she is haunted by the memories. She is unable to sleep at night because of the guilt she feels over the crimes she has done.
Sethe is haunted by the guilt she feels over the death of her kid, and she longs for the day when she will be able to explain it to her. When Sethe sees Beloved, she rejoices, knowing that her daughter has finally come to understand her. She still cannot shake the mental anguish, though. For Sethe, her motherly love is so strong that she is willing to die for her. For her, peace is an unattainable goal.
Slavery wiped out her entire extended family. After learning what had happened to his wife, Halle went insane and lost all sense of reality. Her mother-in-law was outraged by Sethe’s behaviour. As soon as Paul D found out that she had slain her daughter, he too left her house.
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In Beloved, Morrison shows us how slavery turned humans to animals in a variety of ways. He underlines slavery’s effect on African-Americans’ lives in the Sweet Home by recounting the lives of slaves in the plantation. Former slaves were still haunted by the memories of their past even after slavery was abolished. Racist slurs and Jim Crow laws were used against them, and they were viewed as less human than white people. Racism, as Morrison highlights in Beloved, is still a problem in today’s America.