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Who Are The Real Animals?

In this section, we hear a lot from Stamp Paid, who has seemingly replaced the only other male character, Paul D. Stamp Paid brings about this concept of “The Jungle.” Stamp Paid uses the metaphor of The Jungle to help understand how slavery is so terrible for everyone involved. Blacks are described as jungle-like, while the actions of whites help emphasize and promote the jungle-like behavior. The whites create jungle-like instincts within people and in turn, they behave like brutal animals in order to control those instincts. And yet, white people are never described as animals, only black people, even though the acts of white people are the most animalistic of them all. Stamp Paid highlights how slavery affects everyone, and while black people are obviously the ones who have horrible acts done against them, individual white people are reluctant participants and are often just doing what they think their role is in life.

“The Jungle” made me reflect on the discussion we had last class about black people often being described as “animalistic” when it is often the actions of others that bring them to that point. When discussing who should be blamed for Sethe’s horrible act against her children, it was hard to pinpoint a single person. One could blame the Schoolteacher and his nephews, but they are also a product of their environment. Sethe made the physical act, so blame can be placed there, but she would never have had to make that choice had the world been a different place. White people grew up believing that they had this power over those that were enslaved, and so the individuals cannot always be fully blamed for their actions. The Schoolteacher was, of course, unnecessarily cruel, but his actions were only permissible because the institution of slavery existed. Everyone is part of The Jungle and everyone suffers in some way because of slavery. No one of that time could be untouched by the effects of slavery. Yes, white people as a group are to blame for the institution of slavery in America, but blaming individuals is nearly impossible because who’s to say how those individuals would have acted had the circumstances of the country been different.

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2 Comments

  1. Emma Joaquin Emma Joaquin

    Your point about the black characters being related to jungle-like creatures, and white people are the ones that promote this, reminded me of a quote from the last section of reading during the description of Sethe killing Beloved and attempting to kill her other children. The narrator describes that after seeing the look on Sethe’s face of pure animalistic terror, the nephew would learn that “you just can’t mishandle creatures and expect success.” (176) The word choice of creatures here is another way black people are dehumanized and instead put into the broader category of ‘creatures.’

  2. Nora Apt Nora Apt

    I agree that it is difficult to pinpoint a singular individual as responsible for causing Sethe’s actions. As we discussed in class, Sethe’s atrocity makes a strong statement about slavery: in her mind, death was the preferable option. It seems unjust to categorize her actions as “animalistic,” as like you mentioned, it was the actions of others that lead her to this opinion/have these feelings.

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