Slavery In Us Essay, Research Paper
“Slavery! How much misery is comprehended in that single word…Unless the image of God be obliterated from the soul, all men cherish the love of liberty”(Garnet, Henry). Due to slavery, it has made it hard for blacks to survive economically and to be accepted by society. Yet Negroes, at that time, were considered to be subhuman, therefore having no rights. Today, when African-Americans have been free for over a hundred years, it is obvious that blacks too are people and how immorally they have been treated in the past. In Toni Morrison’s novel “Beloved,” the person who best survives the horror of slavery is Denver. Denver survived slavery, because she was able to break out of her mother’s shadow and establish herself as a contender for the good in life, setting an example for others to follow.
Throughout her life, Denver seems to always be living in the shadow of her mother. Society shunned Sethe because of her actions and that made it impossible for Denver to succeed and fit into society. So because of not being accepted in the community as a result of Sethe’s actions, and because of her fear of her mother killing again, Denver did not leave the confines of her yard for many years. Although Denver had not experienced first hand the brutality and damage inflicted to the soul by slavery. She had grown up listening to people’s life stories and knew well what the concept of slavery meant. In a way it is almost as if she was in bondage in her very own house. She was scared to leave her own yard, for fear that what made her mom kill her older sister would happen again. “Whatever it is, it comes from outside this house, outside the yard, and it can come right on in the yard if it wants to. So I never leave this house and I watch over the yard, so it can’t happen again and my mother won’t have to kill me too.”(Morrison p.205) In the years following Baby Suggs death, Denver did not dare step outside the imaginary line she had created for herself. She knew that the outside world had given her mother a reason to kill before. Therefore she
sheltered herself from something she had absolutely no authority over, and did everything in her power to not expose herself to that world.
It can be said that Denver was a charmed baby from birth. The odds for her survival were slim, yet she overcame these obstacles and survived. Who would have thought that Sethe and the baby would live through that labor in the fields, miles from anyone, how ironic is it that Amy, a white girl nevertheless would help give birth. It was more than just pure luck, Denver was destined to survive and live on to achieve greater things. Sethe herself says, “Don’t worry about her. She’s a charmed child. From the beginning. Nothing bad can happen to her… When I went to jail … Denver was just a baby so she went right along with me. Rats bit everything in there but her.” (Pg. 42) The fact that Denver was chosen to survive was compelling evidence that she was the chosen one she was not meant to suffer the struggle of slavery. Denver was to act as an important symbol of the bright future for slaves. Sethe had been imprisoned by slavery most of her young life whatever hope she had of a better future was transferred into her daughter, Denver. She had always been a bright child, and was happy to go to school. Due to her shy manner, some “people said she was simple, but Lady Jones never believed it. Having taught her, watched her eat up a page, a rule, a figure. She knew better.” (Pg. 247) This demonstrates how eager Denver was to learn, and that she had a future full of promise, within her reach. So different from the opportunities her mother could lay claim on, at the same age only twenty years earlier.
As the time went by and Beloved began her revenge on Sethe, Denver became very protective of her. Soon it was obvious that unless something would drastically change they would all die, due to the lack of supplies, food and money. The basic instinct of survival is what made
Denver step out of that self-inflicted boundary and made her overcome her fears. “So it was she (Denver) who had to step off the edge of the world and die because if she didn’t, they all
would.”(Pg. 239) Only when Denver steps out of the yard she makes a life changing discovery that there is good in all people. “Maybe they (people outside her home) were simply nice people who could hold meanness toward each other for just so long and when trouble rode bareback among them, quickly, easily they did what they could to trip him up. In any case, the personal pride, the arrogant claim staked out at 124 seemed to them to have run its course.” (Pg. 249) After she makes the vital discovery her life abruptly changes and she begins making friends, people begin to help her until she is able to support family, gets a job, and little by little makes a place for herself in the society she once feared. Thus Denver inadvertently broke out of the mold that Sethe had subconsciously set for her, and lives up to her destiny.
Towards the conclusion of the novel, when Beloved’s ghost has been exorcised, Denver once again takes up the study of books from Mrs. Bodwin, another white schoolteacher. Denver’s second bid for an education and Paul D’s concealed impulse to warn her, “watch out. Watch out. Nothing in the world more dangerous than a white schoolteacher”(pg 266), intersect to form a lethal possibility that Morrison subtly invites readers to consider: a white education may represent, for Denver, another form of enslavement to the master culture. While the formal institution of slavery may have become obsolete, the systematic structure of racial oppression and its denial of African culture, identity and history continues in the socially and morally sanctioned institutions of education and language.
The person who best survives the atrocities of slavery is Denver. She overcomes many difficult obstacles and moves on to accomplish bigger and greater things then anyone in her family has ever been able to accomplish. Doors become open to her and she grabs all the opportunities, and begins to make something of her life. In return for her hard work Miss Bodwin not only pays
her money, but also teaches her things. “She says I might go Oberlin.” (Pg. 266) Oberlin, was one
of the first Universities to accept black students. This illustrates how far the U.S. had come in its struggle in a period of a mere twenty years. It is accomplishments like going to college, finding a job, getting married, and making something of herself, that pushed her forward. Denver followed through on her destiny and little by little became a somebody. All of a sudden the girl from 124 grew up, she had responsibilities, which she gladly accepted and made everyone proud. Although Denver was never a slave it can be said she survived slavery throughout the life stories that terrorized her mother and many other black people. Denver broke out of the shadow of her mother, and established herself as her own person; she did everything that contradicted the ideas of slavery.
Denver was more than just a survivor of slavery. She was a hero. This demonstrates her brilliant
future as well as that of other ex-slaves and black people.