Silent “human”

One day when I was reading the Beloved, I encountered an unfamiliar word. It was not a rare thing for me as a foreigner. I looked it up in the dictionary but couldn’t find a suitable meaning. Surely, it was not a unit, an adjective or something for horse inside Paul D’s mouth. Definitely, it can’t be such item. So, to prove my thoughts, I opened my browser and googled it. A iron mask with belts and necklace which fix the equipment on one’s head was all I saw. I was really confused about what the purpose of such a weird mask at first, however, I got astonished after went through all the passage under that picture.

The iron bit was something invented by cruel slaveholders to punish the slaves. Inserting the bit is considered abnormally painful and horrifying. Equipping the iron bit would let the user lose the ability of speech. What’s more, it also prohibited people to eat or drink even his or her own saliva since the inner part of the mask prevents the tongue from lifting. What’s more, the outspread hook attached to the necklace plus the heavy weight of the whole mask made it impossible for the victim to run, escape or rest. Generally, the iron bit is designed to torment slaves both physically and mentally.

According to Toni Morrison, she believed the bit has a deeper meaning that is silence. I fully agreed with her since the iron bit is not similar as other instruments of torture—it focus on mouth. The biggest difference to distinguish us human from animals I would say is language. Animals don’t have a whole system of language, they often use different voice for informing, threatening or giving other simple signals without detail. As a human we own colorful language. It is an advanced way of signaling because we include emotion, personality and those special beauty owned by each person. With language, knowledge can be spread out; with language we encourage those deep inside the abyss; with language, we become unique and inscribed by others forever.

The brutal punishment of depriving human’s basic right is definitely dehumanizing. One’s endless desire drives the appearance of such tragic object. Now people trace back to the dark history, but how we suppose to know those silent but deep deep scars under the heavy and thick iron piece.

Beloved and PTSD: It’s Complex

Sethe doesn’t have PTSD. Well, she does, but also she doesn’t. As I said in the title, it’s complex.

Complex PTSD, also known as C-PTSD, is a form of PTSD that differs in how the trauma occurred. PTSD typically occurs after one instance of trauma, like a house fire, an assault, etc. In situations where the trauma occurs over a period of time, the sufferer would most likely have C-PTSD instead. Examples include ongoing abuse, living in a war zone, and of course, slavery.

While PTSD and C-PTSD are similar, they differ in important ways. Additional symptoms of C-PTSD include issues with emotional regulation, distorted perceptions of the perpetrator(s), disassociation, and others.

Let’s examine how we see this play out for Sethe. Sethe has trouble with both blocking out certain memories and reliving them. Her flashbacks are triggered constantly, by many different things. She also has a complicated relationship with her owners; she has a seemingly positive relationship with Mrs. Garner and reflects on her with some level of fondness, despite her perpetuating her trauma. With schoolteacher, he takes on an almost otherworldly level of power, and her attempt to attack who she perceives to be him at the end of the book can be viewed as simultaneously her trying to protect Beloved and Denver and an act of revenge. Seeking revenge, whether through mental fantasy or action, is another symptom of C-PTSD.

C-PTSD is only beginning to be seen as separate from PTSD. But the distinction is important. While all forms of PTSD are difficult to handle and deserving of help, C-PTSD invades the sufferer’s life entirely, often from a young age. It keeps a hold on them forever.