Hypocrisy of Mr. Garner and Mr. Bodwin in Toni Morrison's Beloved
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The Hypocrisy of Mr. Garner and Mr. Bodwin in Toni Morrison's Beloved
In Toni Morrison's novel Beloved, both Mr. Garner and Mr.
Bodwin are presented initially as decent men, with views on the black
race that differ from all the rest of the white men in the book. The
readers first impression of each of these men is favorable. With
further reading and thought however, the reader notices more and
more details that tend to change their initial impression. By the end of
the book both men seem to have lost their appeal. Even though there
is very little said against Mr. Garner, and even less against Mr.
Bodwin, it seems that Morrison was trying to cause very mixed
opinions about each one of these characters. In the end, Mr. Garner
seems no less racist than his fellow slave owners, and Mr. Bodwin,
though opposed to slavery also appears to be much more racist than
he lets on.
Mr. Garner is the owner of Sweet Home, the plantation where
Sethe, her family, and others had been slaves before their escape. He
is singled out from the rest of the white men right away. When his
character is first introduced the narrator speaks of him fighting with
other farmers about his slaves being men. "Now at Sweet Home, my
niggers is men every one of em. Bought em thataway, raised em
thataway. Men every one" he had told other farmers (Morrison 10).
With this comment Mr. Garner was fishing for the reaction he loved to
hear, "I wouldn't have no nigger men round my wife.", to which he'd
retaliate "neither would I, neither would I"(11).
On the surface Mr. Garner is presented as a very admirable
man. He "ran a special kind of slavery", Baby Suggs had thought,
"treating them as paid labor" (140). The way...
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...s than noble. Both men
seem to put on a mightier-than-thou air when in public, and try to
appear as non-racist as possible. Yet Mr. Garner owns slaves, an
obviously racist act, even if he does allow them more than other slave
owners would. And Mr. Bodwin who claims to be against slavery, and
has fought to end it, displays in his own house a figure that embodies
slavery. It appears that the only difference between other slave
owners and Mr. Garner, is that they don't try and hide their racism or
pretend they're better than anyone else. Mr. Bodwin does not own
slaves, and does not believe in the practice, but he is still racist as we
can see from the figure in his house. Which of these is better? Who
can say? But most people aren't fond of hipocrits.
Morrison, Toni. Beloved. Markham, Ontario: Penguin Books Canada Limited, 1987