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.

One thought on “Silent “human”

  1. Lauren d.

    With the many history classes I have taken as a student, I am very surprised that this was the first time I have ever heard of this form of punishment in slavery. It disgusts me that someone would invent or promote something this horrible.

    Like

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