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Humanity in Toni Morrison's Beloved
Daniel Lieberman, Yahoo! Contributor Network
Jun 10, 2008 "Share your voice on Yahoo! websites. Start Here." .More:Toni Morrison.tweet0PrintFlagClose
Post a commentToni Morrison's critically acclaimed novel Beloved magnificently answers many of life's most important questions. The novel addresses major subjects such as personal identity, parental responsibility, and interactions between people. One of the main issues that Beloved addresses is the question of the meaning of humanity, a theme that multitudes of artists, authors and composers have commented on over the years. According to Toni Morrison, the features that set people apart from animals make human beings very special. In Beloved, she exposes these features by creating characters that-at least in some circumstances-do not possess them. Morrison answers the question, "What does it mean to be human?" using a variety of methods including dehumanizing some of her characters at various times in the novel, commenting on the human need to have feelings, and acknowledging that all people make mistakes. The main characters' memories of slavery help convey specific attributes that are not human. The slaves, even in Sweet Home, are treated less like humans than the animals are. Referring to a rooster that could not even escape from its shell without his help, Paul D says, "Mister was allowed to be and stay what he was. But I wasn't allowed to be and stay what I was" (Morrison 72). Mister is treated as more of a man than Paul D is, suggesting that the white slave owners consider their slaves to be below the level of animals, let alone humans. David L. Middleton points out in his work Toni Morrison's Fiction: Contemporary Criticism that "Slave women were not recognized as mothers having bonds with their children but considered only breeders and workers" (Middleton 216). This viewpoint suggests that the black women are no better than horses bred to be strong, productive workers....