In Toni Morrison's novel Beloved, memories and past experiences play an important role in the daily lives of most, if not all, of the characters in the novel. Many of the characters in Beloved had to live through slavery and the evils that accompanied it. The traumas that the characters have experienced in their time as slaves and even after have changed who they are forever. In the case of Stamp Paid he gets a whole new identity and name. He takes on the name Stamp Paid because he had to give up his wife to his master's son and therefore believes that he doesn't owe anyone anything anymore. We are told that "freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another." It's one thing to attempt to repress and forget about the horrors that one has gone through, but it is another to overcome those horrors and not let them affect who one is and how one lives. This cannot be a more accurate description of what happens to the protagonist, Sethe. Although Sethe has long left behind the shackles of slavery, she continues to be enslaved by her own experiences and memories from her time as a slave in her childhood and at the Sweet Home plantation. She carries these experiences with her like the chokecherry tree on her back.
When there is ever a conversation about oppression the subject of identity, and how it is lost, is seldom forgotten. From the minute and personal to the grand horrors of slavery an oppressor will always remove one’s sense of self as a way of preventing resistance, for in the sense of self lies dignity. It is this sense of losing one’s identity that is ever present in slave narratives. From The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano written by himself to The Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass also written by himself the goal of the work is indeed to dispel the notion that slavery should ever be acceptable, but so often the vehicle upon which this goal travels is the reclamation of self. In his autobiography Frederick Douglass reclaims this sense of self firstly by learning to read and giving himself intellectual agency, then in the physical confrontation with Mr. Covey he reclaims physical agency, and finally when he eventually escapes he reclaims agency as a human being. It is through this reclamation
What’s in a Name?
My dad has this old Bill Cosby record that he used to listen to in the age of record players (now he's got the very same in CD version). It was a comedy routine in which Cosby describes his childhood. He reminisces in particular about how he could tell when he was in trouble.
In life one will encounter many difficult situations that will make one doubt their inner strength, intellect, and beauty. Within a blink of an eye situations like that will make one’s self esteem plummet from the tip of Mount Everest to the lowest point of the Dead Sea. However, life does not throw curveballs like these for no specific reason. Instead they are thrown in order to make that individual stronger and to remind them of their importance. With fun illustrations, unique diction, and a playful tone, Kevin Henkes’s, Chrysanthemum, a children’s book, is able to portray a perfect relatable scenario of the process where a little mouse has to face that one difficult situation in which she doubts inner beauty.
Events shape our identity, whether it is ultimately a good or bad change. The elder African slave, Whitechapel, has a rosy view of the plantation, and depicts the lives of the slaves to be a 17th century American Utopia. This view is shattered when Whitechapel’s son Chapel is whipped to his death by a white supremist overseer after running away. Whitechapel, buoyed by his identity as identity of a loyal slave, was the one who told the plantation owner of Chapel’s whereabouts, therefore being responsible for his death. This profoundly affects Whitechapel and heavily influences his decision to abandon his loyal traditional slave identity and deprive himself of a solid identity. The rape of Cook, another African slave, by the overseer Sanders Senior, affects Cook and causes her to change her identity to be less vulnerable. Cook states that “after he touched me I wanted to die”, which indicates her levels of shame and disgust stemming from her traditionalist ideals. After the rape, Cook fixates her identity on Whitechapel, inferring she will do anything to make him happy, even saying she will “bear him a hundred sons”. As having a male child was considered advantageous, by Cook saying this she is showing him the depth of her identifying fixation on Whitechapel. Iden...
As the story begins, it talks about the changes in attitudes of the slaveholders. One slave by the name of Robert Murray recalls how his “white folks” started to change. Murray was a young slave that had been treated fairly well and was even taught how to read, even though it was against the law. Some of the children were even welcomed in what was called the “Big House” because the children found warmth there. With Abraham Lincoln’s election as President, things changed for the slaves. The children were not welcomed in the “Big House” anymore. Robert Murray, along with the other slaves, felt uneasy because he was being watched constantly. The slaveholders started to wonder how the slaves continue their chores as if nothing was going on. Mary Chesnut, a South Carolina slaveholder, wonders, “Are they stolidy stupid or wiser than we are, silent and strong, biding their time”(4).
Naming and Identity can shape a good portion of the person’s life. People are forever know by the name they are given and it can cause assumptions based on the name that was given to them. A way names can be used constructively is giving someone a name that doesn’t stand out too much but carries a certain sense of identity with it. Names like John, Anna, Anthony, Alexis, and Catherine all carry an image with them but they don’t stand out to the point of absurdity. A wrong way of using names would be to use something like Shithead (shi-thead) or North West. These names, while carrying a sense of identity, will open up people to not only ridicule through their school life but will make it hard for them in the future by causing employment issues from employers looking at their name and drawing a different image of who that person is. Names can seriously cripple or help someone depending on how it’s used.
Slavery has limited Baby Suggs' self-conception by shattering her family and denying her the opportunity to be who she wants to be, which is a good wife and mother. She is seen as wise and spiritual, even in her last days. "You lucky. You got three left. Three pulling at your skirts and just one raising hell from the other side" (Morrison, 5). What makes her so authentic is her ability to have such control over language, dismissing the "binding shackles of social codes" (Dahill-Baue, 473).
My last name is everything to me. It sets me apart from most people in the world, and shows that I am part of a strong family. Also, my last name illustrates facts about my ancestors, where my family originated, and even what they have accomplished. If I proposed to the perfect girl and she said “yes,” but only if she could keep her last name; we would have to have a long chat about this decision.
Toni Morrison was born with the name Chloe Anthony Wofford. She changed her first name to Toni upon entering college - traditionally, a time looked upon as one of great significance in a young person's life. From this, we can infer that Morrison appreciates the power of a changed name to confer a new identity. There are two characters whose names change during the novel: Jenny Whitlow becomes Baby Suggs, and Joshua becomes Stamp Paid. In both of these cases, the character is abandoning the name under which they lived as a slave for a new, free name. Whitlow is the last name of Jenny's original master (142), and we learn that she takes the name Baby Suggs because her husband called her Baby. What she is known as by the people closest to her is more important than what the white community wishes to call her.