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Biplob Prodhan
  • 3 months ago
  • 148
Picture of Racial Violence in Toni Morrison’s “Beloved”


Racial violence is a prominent theme in Toni Morrison’s “Beloved.” The novel portrays the physical, emotional, and psychological violence inflicted on enslaved African Americans and their descendants, and the lasting impact of that violence on individuals and communities.

One of the most striking examples of racial violence in the novel is the brutal treatment that Sethe and other slaves endure on the Sweet Home plantation. Sethe and her husband, Halle, are separated by the plantation owner, who also sexually assaults Sethe. The enslaved people on the plantation are subjected to physical abuse, including whippings, beatings, and other forms of violence. The violence is designed to break their spirits and reinforce their status as property rather than human beings with rights and dignity.

The novel also depicts the violence of slavery through the experiences of characters like Paul D, who has been imprisoned and subjected to forced labor. Paul D describes how the slaveowners branded their slaves with hot irons, a process that was excruciatingly painful and traumatizing. He also recounts the story of a fellow slave who was castrated after attempting to escape. The violence of slavery, the novel suggests, is not just physical but also psychological, affecting the mental and emotional wellbeing of those who endure it.

The trauma of slavery and racial violence also extends to the characters’ relationships and family dynamics. For example, Sethe kills her own infant daughter to spare her from the horrors of slavery, an act that is both a form of violence and a desperate act of love. The ghost of the dead child continues to haunt Sethe, who is unable to move on from the trauma of her past. Similarly, Paul D struggles to form meaningful connections with others after years of abuse and forced labor, leading to a sense of isolation and disconnection from others.

The novel also depicts the ongoing legacy of racial violence and its impact on African American communities. The character of Beloved, the ghostly presence that haunts Sethe’s home, is a symbol of the past that cannot be forgotten or erased. The novel suggests that the trauma of slavery is not just an individual experience but a collective one that continues to affect African Americans in the present day.

Through its portrayal of racial violence, “Beloved” offers a powerful critique of the institution of slavery and its ongoing legacy. The novel challenges readers to confront the brutality and inhumanity of slavery, and to recognize the lasting impact of that violence on individuals and communities. At the same time, the novel also offers a message of hope, suggesting that through love, community, and the power of storytelling, it is possible to confront the trauma of the past and build a better future.

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Biplob Prodhan
Founder of EDNOUB & Ednoub Private Program


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