“Beloved” and the Power of Perspective

Throughout “Beloved” Toni Morrison intentionally provides possibly limited but illuminating points of views. The stories of struggles and triumphs are told almost selectively from the perspective of former slaves and their relatives. While some may argue that it limits the scope of the story, I think it is important to hear the story from the lion’s perspective instead of the hunter’s. Through the textbooks that circulate our country’s public school systems, we are desensitized to the atrocities of slavery. These books often sugarcoat the horrors that took place on many plantations during the era of slavery. Until reading this novel, I had never heard of a “bit” or many other forms of systematic torture of slaves. Slavery was almost primarily discussed through the scope of civil war. We were taught that it was a divisive topic between the north and south, but rarely were we taught about the slave’s lives stuck in between the Union and Confederacy. That is why Morrison’s utilization of perspective is so essential. This novel, while fictional, gives a voice to a underrepresented community.

Morrison also shows the reader how dangerous the hunter’s perspective can be. While Sethe and Baby Suggs tell their own stories of escape, Sethe’s infanticide is told through the perspective of the schoolteacher. This perspective spreads to all of Sethe’s neighbor, essentially ostracizing her from her own people. Those that knew what happened didn’t care for Sethe’s reasoning. They didn’t care that Sethe did it to protect her infant daughter from a fate worse than death. They only cared about the story of a mother killing her child in cold blood. That is why the hunter’s narrative is so dangerous in isolation. If left unchecked, inaccurate information spreads like wildfire until the lion’s point of view is eradicated.

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