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Loss of Self

Loss of Self

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Published by hoganmadman

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Published by: hoganmadman on Dec 02, 2009
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12/01/2009

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Journal #1: Paul D
In Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Paul D is perhaps the most significant and complexmale character in the novel. However like many characters in the novel he is plagued by alack of self worth or identity. Paul D is described as “the kind of man who could walk into ahouse and make the women cry. Because with him, in his presence, they could cry and tellhim things they only told each other” (Morrison, 13). He himself is however emotionallycrippled. Years of pain and suffering cause Paul to constantly question his value as a personand a man. Paul D. frequently wonders about his value as a person and struggles with theconcept of being a real man. To endure the brutality he suffered at Sweet Home and in thechain gang Paul D developed a coping strategy in which he locked all his feelings away inthe rusted “tobacco box” of his heart and decided never to love anything too much (Morrison,97). By stopping himself from experiencing any emotion Paul willingly restricted himself from developing a sense of identity so it couldn’t be taken away form him. It takes the arrivalof Beloved and her seduction to release him and to free the "red heart" he's imprisoned in the"rusted tobacco tin" of his memories. Beloved forces Paul D to feeling ashamed and abhor himself for sleeping with her thus opening his heart also to emotions of love for Sethe. Bychoosing to love another person a finally opening his heart Paul D is able to develop anidentity. Paul D struggles through his hardships and eventually “puts his story next to”Sethe’s (Morrison, 232). With this display of love and maturity Paul D is finally able to findhis identity as a loving man.(299)
 
Journal #2: Beloved
In Toni Morrison’s Beloved, the character Beloved holds a lot of significance besides just being the reincarnation of Sethe’s deceased daughter. The character Belovedembodies the historical past of slavery that haunts Seth. The presence of Beloved forcesSethe to recognize the pains of her past so she can come to terms with herself. She acts as theintervention in the novel to interrupt Sethe’s unwillingness to face memory and history.Beloveds return to house 124 as a full grown woman is symbolic of the way the past never dies but when left to manifest can grow more intense in the present. Sethe works hard as possible to remember as little about her past in the novel because “every mention of her pastlife hurt. Everything in it was painful or lost” (Morrison, 69). By forgetting her past Setheallowed it to grow larger than life and be reborn in the form of Beloved. By the end of thenovel Sethe grows weak while Beloved becomes healthy and pregnant. This symbolizes thedraining nature of the past if it’s allowed to suckle life from the present. Beloved also acts asa symbol of a slow but powerful ablution in the novel. During her time with Sethe, Belovedevokes painful memories and encourages her mother to talk about her life. Through thisBeloved purges Sethe’s past of some of their toxicity and forces her mother to confront her  pain. By telling Beloved her past as a way to “feed her” curiosity Sethe is able to expungeyears of guilt and horror. This verbal exorcising of the atrocities allowed Sethe to make peacewith herself and look forward to the future. Before Beloved’s arrival Sethe was living in ahouse haunted by the ghost of her past. Beloved’s intervention through recognition of the past allows Sethe to figure out who she is and look forward to the future.(316)
 
 
Journal #3: Duality of Slavery
The vexing effect of slavery on slaves plays a large role in Toni Morrison’s novelBeloved. The damaging effects of slavery on a person’s sense of morality are not limited tothe slave. Morrison, in her novel, develops the theme that slavery corrupts and dehumanizeseveryone it comes in contact with, including the slave master. For the peculiar institution of slavery to work whites convinced themselves that slaves were less than human. Theyconstantly dehumanized and subjugated slaves. For example, the schoolteacher’s wickedlessons on Sethe’s animalistic qualities and violent racism are his means of justifying theinstitution of slavery. Barbarizing African Americans also allowed whites to run away fromtheir own savagery by projecting them onto their slaves. Stamp Paid illustrates this clearlywhen he states “White people believed that whatever the manners, under every dark skin wasa jungle… In a way . . . they were right. . . . But it wasn’t the jungle blacks brought with themto this place. . . . It was the jungle whitefolks planted in them. And it grew. It spread . . . untilit invaded the whites who had made it. . . . Made them bloody, silly, worse than even theywanted to be, so scared were they of the jungle they had made. The screaming baboon livedunder their own white skin; the red gums were their own” (Morrison, 149). So in the act of infanticide, Sethe was out worldly mimicking the morality of her white master. She was justrepeating the savagery she herself had experienced many times. The slave regime made thewhite man’s sense of moral meaningless and therefore his sense of identity. In this wayslavery hurt the slave masters. The slave on the other hand lost their culture and humanityand thus took on the same moral atmosphere of their masters.(310)

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