Impact of Slavery on the Individual Exposed in Beloved
In her novel, Beloved, Toni Morrison conveys her strong feelings about slavery. One of the major themes throughout the book is the impact that slavery has on the
individual. Morrison utilizes the characters Mr. Garner and Schoolteacher to illustrate how slavery affects everyone in a different way.
Though Morrison portrays Mr. Garner as the more humane master, in actuality he is no different then Schoolteacher, because ultimately they are both slave owners. Morrison includes the character, Mr. Garner, to show that even if you allow your slaves to do certain activities, you are still a displeasing human being because you are a slave owner. Garner allowed his slaves to choose wives, handle guns, learn to read and even purchase a mother's freedom. Garner let Halle buy his mother, Baby Suggs' freedom, but as Halle points out to Sethe , his wife, " If he hadn't of, she would of dropped in his cooking stove...I pay him for her last years and in return he got you, me and three more coming up" ( Morrison, 195-96). Garner allowed for one slave's freedom, but received stronger, younger slaves in her place, which in his mind made him the victor of the deal.
Schoolteacher on the other hand treated his slaves without any respect because he did not believe they deserved any. He use to measure them with string as if they were animals and ask them foolish questions in order to conduct research. He also involved his nephews in these dehumanizing acts by persuading them to physically abuse the slaves, while he watched. At one point in the book, the narrator discusses Schoolteacher's views on how Garner ran the plantation, " the spoiling these particular slaves had at Garner's hands....letting niggers hire out their own time to buy themselves. He even let them have guns!...He (Schoolteacher) had come to put the place right" (Morrison, 226). Schoolteacher believed it was his job to enforce order among these "spoiled" slaves and treat them how he felt slaves should be treated. The only way he concluded that this could be done was through violence and blatant disrespect.
The character, Paul D., worked as a slave under both Mr. Garner and Schoolteacher, and although they treated him differently, the final outcome was the same. Paul D. acknowledged that Garner called his slaves men, " but only on Sweet Home, and by his leave" ( Morrison, 220). Paul D. did not need some white master telling him who was a man or not, he knew for himself. But as soon as Schoolteacher came , any confidence Paul D. had, vanished. Paul D. came to believe he was worthless due to his captivity, as described in a scene about a rooster called Mister. Paul D. replayed that scene for Sethe, saying," Mister, he looked so...free. Better than me. Stronger, tougher....Mister was allowed to be and stay what he was. But I wasn't allowed to be and stay what I was...no way I'd...