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Essay on Slavery and Dehumanization in Toni Morrison’s Beloved

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The atrocities of slavery know no bounds. Its devices leave lives ruined families pulled apart and countless people dead. Yet many looked away or accepted it as a necessary part of society, even claiming it was beneficial to all. The only way this logic works is if the slaves are seen as less than human, people who cannot be trusted to take care of themselves. In Toni Morrison’s Beloved the consequences of a lifetime of slavery are examined. Paul D and seethe, two former slaves have experienced the worst slavery has to offer. Under their original master, Mr. Garner the slaves were treated like humans. They were encouraged to think for themselves and make their own decisions. However, upon the death of Mr. Garner all of that changes. Under their new master, The Schoolteacher, they are relegated to a position among animals. They are seen as beasts of burden rather than equals. Paul D and the other slaves are stripped of their free will and their manhood. The Schoolteacher treats them as though they were animals without emotions. The schoolteacher is not the only one; he is representative of society in general and its mindset towards African Americans. The system of slavery by nature devalues the lives of slaves and demotes them to a status below humans.
By being a slave, Paul D is dehumanized and striped of his identity as a person. With the Garners he had a degree of free will, he could move around to an extent. When the Schoolteacher takes over this small liberty is taken away from him. He is treated like a horse, used for labor and then confined when not needed. He is not trusted or listened to or least of all respected. When he has a bit placed into his mouth it is as though he is an inanimate object or less than an animal. P...


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...’t have to be.
The dehumanization of the characters in Beloved did not happen by accident. The system of slavery cannot produce any other results. When a human lives a constrained life lacking in free will they will inevitably begin to lose what makes them a human. This is also because the white people believe them to be close to animals in the first place. In their eyes the slaves are much less than the humans they are and as a result the white man’s image is impressed upon the slaves. Not only is this how the slave owners thought, but after time the slaves began to believe it themselves. Both Sethe and Paul D fell as though they are less than human. They could actually be losing their human characteristics or only feel that way because that’s what they've been told their whole lives.



Works Cited

Morrison, Toni. Beloved: A Novel. New York: Random, 1987. Print.


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