Hannah Tay Yee Ern Mrs. McNeill 3A 5 November 2014 Psychological Impacts of Slavery As Harriet Ann Jacobs (1813-1897), an African-American writer who escaped from slavery, once said: “When they told me my new-born babe was a girl, my heart was heavier than it had ever been before. Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women.” Indeed, slavery was an obstacle to emancipation. It left both physical and emotional scars on those who were enslaved. They were shackled to the past - the unforgettable past. In the historical fiction novel Beloved, written by Toni Morrison, the lives of female and male slaves were explicitly described.
For black women, however, the institution of slavery affected their psychological states, their marriages, and their family life. Slaves were frequently beaten, often without reason or cause. Their husbands were often sold to neighboring plantations, and female slaves were often terrorized by their male masters, ruining the sanctity of marriage amongst slave households (Brinkley 261). The children of female slaves were also often sold to other plantations, ripping apart the last remaining family that a female slave possessed (Northup, 12 Years a Slave). The constant auctioning of slaves and their children disturbed a female slaves ability to care for her children, and the sanctity of the family was ruined by the institution.
One similarity that is apparent is that they can be regarded as symbols of the great mother because both of them lead their roles as a protective and possessive mother. However, Sethe in Beloved can also be seen as symbolic of the African mother who is fundamental in depiction of motherhood in Morrison’s novels. With the power to create and destroy life both Sethe and Eva make the cruel decision to end their children’s lives. Morrison depicts these acts in a brutal manner in order to convey the seriousness of the situation and to convey the frustration that arises as a result of racism and the heritage of slavery. Morrison reveals the side of motherhood most authors would be reluctant to portray.
From this, derives a bond with the reader that pushes their understanding of the evil nature of slavery that society deemed appropriate therefore enhancing their understanding of history. While only glossed over in most classroom settings of the twenty-first century, students often neglect the sad but true reality that the backbone of slavery, was the dehumanization of an entire race of people. To create a group of individuals known for their extreme oppression derived from slavery, required plantation owner’s of the South to constantly embedded certain values into the lives of their slaves. To talk back means to be whipped. To fail to do work to a respectable level means to be sold to another plantation and ripped away from one’s family.
Alice Walker wrote her own literary criticism; Walker has stated before she is “committed to exploring the oppressions, the insanities, the loyalties, and triumphs of black women”. It is evident that Walker writes about oppressions, loyalties, and triumphs of a black women masterfully because her description of these is realistic. Alice Walker realistically portrays Celie being oppressed by men because she is sexually, physically, and emotionally abused. Celie opens up her story by explaining how she is sexually abused by her father because her mother is sick and can not fill the needs of what her father wants. Celie tells the only person she can, God about what her dad has done.
African-Americans have lacked a written cultural history because of the trauma of the peculiar institution. Their his/herstory (her story) is missing accurate narratives from crucial parts such as the middle passage, the era of institution of slavery, as well as the Jim Crow laws of the Reconstruction years. The trauma many black suffered because of these periods have been unspeakable until recently. Tony Morrison in her 1986 noble prize winning book, Beloved, creates a neo-slave narrative to confront these issues. Morrison brings emotional healing to blacks by speaking what was formally unspeakable by going into the psyche of the African American consciousness and reveals historical trauma.
The discrimination that continues to be the African American experience has brought forth in Morrison one of the most significant voices of her race and age. One does not have to be black to realize that slavery was a holocaust, or to empathize with the suffering of the generations who were worn down, physically and mentally. Reaction to the injustice and abuse inflicted upon the members of black race, can be nothing but loathing and horror. And reaction to their valour can be nothing but respect. In this commentary, I propose to show that, in her novel Beloved, Morrison makes the reader become aware of the psychological damage done to the African American people by the brutal inhumanity that constituted American slavery.
There are some other examples in the American history where mothers have killed their infants to take away the extra burden of slavery on them. Mary Montgomery for instance, escaped the plantation with her child but when she found it difficult to escape with a baby in tow, she left, “her sucking infant behind to die” (Drew 49). In the novel, Sethe kills her daughter Beloved and Stamp Paid said she did it because she ‘was trying to outhurt the hurters’, she didn’t want them to have access to her children. He also said she did it because ‘She loves those children’ (243). The act of Sethe killing her own child is at first not easy to understand and cannot be
Jessica Makhol Mrs. Augustine AP Literature 15 February 2018 Toni Morrison’s novel, Beloved, is a historically based fiction piece about a mother who attempts to kill all of her children to keep them free from the institution of slavery. Many critics question whether or not Morrison’s novel is historically accurate in recounting the unfortunate events of slavery. However, Beloved is a clear representation of what could possibly lead a mother to murdering her own child. Although events that occurred through the institution of slavery are difficult to accept as reality, Morrison did not exaggerate the cruelties of slavery in her novel. In Morrison’s novel, the protagonist is a woman, whom is a former slave that endured abuse on the Sweet Home plantation, named Sethe.
She doesn’t have anyone to love her and she doesn’t love any one. Had Celie not been sold into marriage, she would probably still be at home getting raped by her “father” and we wouldn’t know Sofia or Harpo in the story. All of the tribulations of Celie’s childhood show how life was back then for some families. The tragedies of her childhood shaped the meaning of this work as a whole tremendously. She survived being raped by her own father, becoming impregnated twice, and being sold off into marriage as if she were worthless .