Comparing Beloved and Night
The two novels I am writing about are "Night" by Elie Wiesel and "Beloved," by Toni Morrison. Beloved tells about slavery and an ex-slave mother's struggle with a past which is projected as the haunting of her people. It tells the story of Sethe, a mother compelled to kill her child, rather than let the child live a life of slavery. Toni Morrison uses ghosts and the supernatural to create an enhanced acceptance of the human condition and the struggled survival of the Black American.
The novel is set in Ohio in the 1880's. The Civil War had been won, slavery had been abolished, however, the memories of slavery still remain. Although the story itself is fictional, the novel is based on real events. The events are based on the trial in Cincinnati of Margaret Garner, who with her husband, and seventeen other slaves (Kentuckian) crossed the Ohio where they supposedly found safe shelter.
When it was discovered that they had been pursued and surrounded, and her husband overpowered, Margaret knew that any hope of freedom was in vain. She refused to see her children taken back into slavery. Without delay, Margaret quickly took hold of a butcher's knife which was laid on a table and cut the throat of her young daughter. She then attempted to kill her other children as well, then herself, but she was overpowered and held back before she could follow through. She was arrested and put on trial on the grounds that the child she killed was the legal property of the owner.
In Beloved, when a new proprietor takes over Sweet Home (the slave farm), Sethe, escapes the brutal beatings she now endures in an attempt to go from Kentucky to Ohio. When the previous owner of Sweet home, Mr. Garner, had the farm, he was kind to his slaves and believed his slaves should be men and not boys. He encouraged them to use their initiative and educate themselves to become more self reliant and independent. He even encouraged them to carry guns. This encouragement and initiative ended when Mr. Garner died and the farm was taken over by a new proprietor, known as 'Schoolteacher.' The slaves were forced to adapt to a new owner who was a cruel racist and who condemned the slaves to a life of bondage and toil. This reality of what 'real' slavery was, as opposed to the life they had previously been used to, is what prompted the slaves to escape from Sweet Home.
The main characters include: Sethe, an escaped slave and a mother; Baby Suggs, her mother-in-law; Sixo, who "stopped speaking because there was no future in it"; Mister, who identifies slaves in terms of "human" and "animal."; Paul D., a fellow slave who becomes Sethe's lover; Schoolteacher, the cruel and sadistic proprietor and new owner of Sweet Home. For the characters of this novel, it is the memories of slavery, chain-gangs, lynchings and beatings which make their freedom almost unattainable. Much of the...