The effects of Slavery and Racism as a theme in “Beloved”
In general, “Beloved” is a novel that tells the story of a group of people that has been discriminated and gravely mistreated because of their skin colour. These ethnical differences exist everywhere in the world but should not affect the condition as human beings that all people share. Nevertheless, in the United States of America (and many other countries with a history of being colonized) the discrimination towards black people led to slavery, which is one of the most traumatic and extreme situations that human beings have ever endured. In “Beloved” the effect of this condition is portrayed in a very clear and raw manner: it’s fair to say that the characters former condition as slaves is what led to the development of the rest of the story, in particular, the murder of Beloved committed by her mother.
Throughout the story there are many mentions of the effects that racism and slavery have on black people and their culture. The next three quotes are the most important, as they summarize the views of Toni Morrison, that reflect the feelings of the entire black community, towards this issue.
“That anybody white could take your whole self for anything that came to mind. Not just work, kill, or maim you, but dirty you. Dirty you so bad you couldn’t like yourself anymore. Dirty you so bad you forgot who you were and couldn’t think it up. And though she and others lived through and got over it, she could never let it happen to her own. The best thing she was, was her children. Whites might dirty her alright, but not her best thing, her beautiful, magical best thing–the part of her that was clean. No undreamable dreams about whether the headless, feetless torso hanging in tree with a sign on it was her husband or Paul A; whether the bubbling-hot girls in the colored-school fire set by patriots included her daughter; whether a gang of whites invaded her daughter’s private parts, soiled her daughter’s thighs and threw her daughter out of the wagon. She might have to work the slaughterhouse, but not her daughter.
And no one, nobody on this earth, would list her daughter’s characteristics on the animal side of the paper. No. Oh no. Maybe Baby Suggs could worry about it, live with the likelihood of it; Sethe had refused–and refused still.” p. 251
“A shudder ran through Paul D. A bone-cold spasm that made him clutch his knees. He didn’t know if it was ban whiskey, nights in the cellar, pig fever, iron bits, smiling roosters, fired feet, laughing dead men, hissing grass, rain, apple blossoms, neck jewelry, Judy in the slaughterhouse, Halle in the butter, ghost-white stairs, chokecherry trees, cameo pins, aspens, Paul A’s face, sausage or the loss of a red, red heart.
“Tell me something, Stamp.” Paul D’s eyes where rheumy. “Tell me this one thing. How much is a nigger supposed to take? Tell me. How much?”
“All he can,” said Stamp Paid. “All he can.”
“Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?” p. 235
“Very few had died in bed, like Baby Suggs, and none that he knew of, including Baby, had lived a livable life. Even the educated colored: the long-school people, the doctors, the teachers, the paper-writers and businessmen had a hard row to hoe. In addition to having to use their heads to get ahead, they had the weight of the whole race sitting there. You needed two heads for that. Whitepeople believed that whatever the manners, under every dark skin was 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. The more coloredpeople spent their strength trying to convince them how gentle they were, how clever and loving, how human, the more they used themselves up to persuade whites of something Negroes believed could not be questioned, the deeper and more tangled the jungle grew inside. But it wasn’t the jungle blacks brought with them to this place form the other (livable) place. It was the jungle whitefolks planted in them. And it grew. It spread. In, through and after life, it spread, until it invaded the whites who had made it. Touched them every one. Changed and altered them. Made them bloody, silly, worse than even they wanted to be, so scared were they of the jungle they had made. The screaming baboon lived under their own white skin; the red gums were their own.” pp. 198-199
Andrea Alatorre and Sofia Murua