Beloved Style Analysis

9 September 2016

The institution of slavery was the murder of equality, and the birth of dehumanization. In Beloved by Toni Morrison, the use of rhetorical devices conveys this point indefinitely. On pages 175 to 176, Morrison focuses in on the most antagonistic character of the novel: Schoolteacher. In portraying his perspective, Morrison is able to achieve her purpose within the novel, and about society as a whole. The effective phrasing of diction and imagery allows Morrison to give the reader a holistic view on the state of mind behind the ultimate supporters of slavery.

As the owner of Sweethome, Schoolteacher saw himself as the superior. He gave nobody respect, yet demanded to be treated like a God. His vehemently racist opinions and demeanor towards slaves are clearly expressed through Morrison’s particular word choice. The transition in perspective can first be noted from the repeated use of “nigger” (175) which connotes a clear resentment towards African Americans. This jumps right into Schoolteacher’s view on African Americans and slaves, and serves as an indicator of his personality.

Beloved Style Analysis Essay Example

Also, he utilizes the word “claim” (175) in his observations, which suggests that he is taking back something that belonged to him in the first place. This shows how he views the slaves as items that he owns, and not humans that deserve to live their own lives. In exploiting such vocabulary, Morrison is showing the personality of Schoolteacher and furthering his role as the antagonist in the novel. Her larger purpose, however, is to generalize the mindset that all slave and plantation owners had back in the times where slavery was rampant, and the dehumanization that arose as a result from it.

The perspective of a slave owner is not only achieved through the derogatory terms and possessive indications that Schoolteacher makes, but through his allusions as well. He states that Sethe had gone “wild” (176), which relates her to an animal that is untamed or unsafe to be around. He also mentions that she had a good amount of “breeding” (176) years left. The very connotation of breeding is relatable to the mass production of offspring from animals for useful purposes, not for the sake of living.

Morrison pays close attention to these words to further her point that slavery was so destructive towards humans that they were no longer viewed as such. Slaves were seen as tools and animals that could be bred to become more useful for their owners. Morrison utilized not only diction to portray the oppression behind slavery, but imagery as well. The imagery that Morrison employs allows her to better paint the picture that is slavery, and put on display the gruesome outcomes that ensue from it. “Two were lying open-eyed in the sawdust; a third pumped blood down the dress…” (176).

This phrase from the passage instills an image in the mind that is nothing short of disturbing. By elaborating upon such a grisly description on the state of Sethe’s children, Morrison shows how slavery destroys humanity and innocence as well. Sethe was driven to the brink of literally psychosis due to the fear from the possibility of her and her children returning to slavery. Her previous experiences were so brutal, so dehumanizing that she would rather kill her children than have them live through what she had to.

Morrison’s use of imagery in this sense provides an insight to the intensity of the oppression slaves had faced, and the extent to which they would attempt to avoid it. The treatment received by the slaves was abysmal to the point where suicide and murder seemed like a haven to them. This assists Morrison’s larger purpose that pertains to how slavery destroyed every aspect of human life, and deteriorated the quality of life that we possess now. The intricacies of Morrison’s attention to word choice and imagery contribute to the ultimate purpose within her novel.

By using Schoolteacher as the representation of white man, Morrison is able to accurately and dramatically portray the mindset of the slave owners and proponents of slavery. The dehumanization of slaves, and horrors they were forced to cope with are key focuses in the passage on pages 175 to 176, yet only a small piece to the underlying statement Morrison strives to create in her novel. Through the effective exploitation of rhetorical devices, Morrison effortlessly recreates the tragedy that is slavery.

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