Maples, Honors English III
6 March 2016
Cruelty in Beloved
In Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved, the white slave plantation owner named Schoolteacher commits brutal actions against the African American slaves, including Sethe and Paul D, inflicting pain not only on their pasts but scarring their future lives as well. Cruelty is defined as an act of malice towards another person or party, both physical or psychological, and regardless of the intention of the perpetrator. Throughout the story, Schoolteacher goes through many encounters with the African American slaves that are evidently categorized under cruelty. As a white man during the time period after the American Civil War, Schoolteacher exploits Sethe and Paul D among other slaves, hurting and breaking relationships between the slaves, while justifying his position of superiority with his race.
One of the acts that violated the slaves is between Schoolteacher’s nephews and Sethe. Sethe had her breast milk stolen after Schoolteacher instructed his nephews to do so, as a result of Sethe telling Mrs. Garner about how Schoolteacher whipped her back. The “two boys with mossy teeth” not only stole the milk, but also stole the sense of motherhood from Sethe (70). Morrison uses this descriptive detail to describe the nephews, in order to associate the perpetrators with being dirty, and ultimately barbaric. The owning of slaves may have been a social factor needed flourish and survive as white plantations owners during the post-Civil War era, but the specific violation of Sethe’s milk confirms that Schoolteacher and his nephews extended the boundaries of cruelty to be intentional, to hurt Sethe. Thus, Sethe is very protective of her milk after that incident, especial...
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...hoolteacher seeked in his actions. However, even though owning slaves on a slave plantation may support the notion of the economic benefits of slavery during the time, the cruelty is not justified, as Schoolteacher’s actions obviously contrast with the generosity and respect that the Garners gave the slaves during their ownership of Sweet Home. Schoolteacher and his nephews, as perpetrators, faced no consequences, as slavery favored them, and may have even felt amusement at watching their victims be helpless. The victims, however, ultimately suffered in the time that they were tortured, and also in their lives following their lives as slaves. The former slaves may have been free in 124, but their minds and actions will forever be dictated by the dark cruelty they faced in their pasts.
Morrison, Toni. Beloved. New York: Penguin-Plume, 1988. Print.
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