Narrative of the Life of Sethe

In the novel Beloved, Sethe and Paul D recount their journey through slavery and the reprocussions of freedom. Although author Toni Morrison didn’t have first hand experience, her descriptions and experiences in slavery accurately portray a variety of true stories. In particular, Morrison’s stories of Paul D and Sethe reflect a lot of the key themes and experiences in Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.

To start, both Sethe and Paul D don’t have many familial connections and rely on the other slaves at their plantation for a sense of comradery. Frederick Douglass was also separated from his family at a young age and found it hard to build relationships due to him fearing their separation. As seen in Beloved, Sethe has a similar anxiety around trusting that Paul D will stay with her. After Sethe had lost her mother, Halle, and multiple kids out her life, she struggled with relying on people.

Another of many similarities between the two narrations is the restrictiveness of humanity under slavery. Paul D’s bit in his mouth reflected a lot of the physical barriers causing Frederick Douglass to feel inhumane. Frederick Douglass recounts the songs the slaves would sing as they were allowed to run errands off of the plantation. The songs retained their freedom of speech again as they could express their cries of sadness, hope, and any other suppressed emotions. The bit in Paul D’s mouth is restricting his freedom of expression and compromising his humanity like the slaves in Frederick Douglass’ autobiography. 

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