Summary Of Slavery In Toni Morrison's Beloved

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It was the ‘legal imagination’ that fashioned slaves as property – producing connecting narratives where the acts of the subject were changed into being properties of the object . For instance, marriage was an option inaccessible to slaves; where slaves ran away, it was construed by law to be a fault in property; and where the Fugitive Slave Act (1850) allowed for an assertion of property rights by slaveowners for the purpose of reclaiming their runaway slaves . This is demonstrated by Toni Morrison in her novel, Beloved, when Sethe recounts: “And when the schoolteacher found us and came busting in here with the law and a shotgun…” .
The institution of slavery was thus strengthened by the fact that these legal creations had been developed in response to historical conditions – specifically economics – and which resulted in the minimising of the costs and ambiguities associated with the slave trade . This is something Paul D comes to realise when he compares his value to that of Sethe’s:
“He wasn 't surprised to learn that they had tracked her down in Cincinnati, because, when he thought about it now, her price was greater than his; property that reproduced itself without cost” .
Therefore, the act at the centre of the novel – Sethe’s murder of her daughter – is an act of destruction of property . Morrison sought to use the dichotomy of property/personhood in an attempt to outline the paradoxical and traumatic effects of slavery on subjects, who lived at the intersection
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