The Misuse of Language in Beloved
In Toni Morrison's Beloved many negative methods of communication used by the white people are effectively hijacked by the black people. The black people create a completely new message and a positive form of communication. These forms of communication, in turn, empower the oppressed black people, providing channels for the expression of ideas, thoughts, and memories.
Such was the case in the American culture of the mid 1800's as depicted in Beloved because of the gap in the social status and power of black versus white Americans. The language of the whites was not able to effectively communicate the thoughts of all and was used many times as a method of coercion. Largely, I am referring to oral and written communication. Oral communication done by whites in the book tends to be in the manner of orders, or to demean, dismiss, or condemn. This gives standard oral communication a somewhat negative air. Written communication is also tainted by the white people who abuse it. For example, on pages 155-6, as Paul D is reading the newspaper clipping given to him by Stamp Paid about Sethe, he is filled with a sense of foreboding.
"A whip of fear broke through the heart chambers as soon as one saw a Negro's face in a paper, since the face was not there because the person had a healthy baby, or outran a street mob. Nor was it there because the person had been killed, or maimed or caught or burned or jailed or whipped or evicted or stomped or raped or cheated, since that would hardly qualify as news in a newspaper. It would have to be something out of the ordinary--something white people would find interesting, truly different, worth a few minutes of teeth sucking if not gasps" (Morrison, 155-6).
The schoolteacher also abuses written communication. He uses it as a tool for teaching the his young and impressionable nephews the true meaning of discrimination...and why he believes it is good and right. He separates black people from other human beings, likening them to some sort of combination of human and animal species. "Put her human characteristics on the right, her animal ones on the left." This entire ideology, comparing certain kinds of human beings with animals, devalues the people of the minority to lesser beings. It essentially dehumanizes...