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Author: David Ataide

Suppressing the Horrors of Slavery

In the first three chapters of Beloved, we are introduced to Sethe and her daughter Denver, who live in a house that is haunted by a ghost suspected to be Sethe’s eldest daughter who died. Sethe herself is an escaped slave who tries in vain to suppress the memories of her past in enslavement, all for the sake of insuring a better life for her daughter Denver. Despite her efforts, she is constantly reminded of her past through the ghost and through Paul D, one of the male slaves who also worked at her plantation called Sweet Home.

As of these chapters, it seems to me that the ghost in the story is a representation of the psychological impact that is left on those who lived as slaves. Having lived their entire life considered as sub-human and under the threat of torture or death for any action considered out of line, slaves bear the weight of these horrors every single day. What makes it worse for Sethe is that she was never actually freed from slavery, but rather escaped. This makes her even more paranoid of her past, because she could be easily returned to Sweet Home if she were to be discovered. All of these factors together show a clear impact on Sethe’s psyche, and form a representation of the mental state of those who were once in captivity.

It even goes a step further and shows the impact that Sethe’s efforts to forget her past have on her daughter, who is practically home-ridden because of the “ghost” in the house. While the ghost itself seems real in the story, I again believe that this goes to show the impact that witnessing her mother’s traumatized mindset has had on Denver. With every reminder Denver seems to understand more and more about what her mother went through and in turn becomes more secluded from society. Overall, it seems as though Sethe’s efforts to suppress her past and secure a better future for her daughter have been in vain due to constant reminders of slavery through the ghost of her daughter and through her paranoia of being returned to captivity.

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Fighting for Women’s Suffrage

I found the video on women’s suffrage very informative. There are certain things that most people don’t know about the movement. People typically simplify it by seeing it as a spontaneous movement when all women finally decided to fight for the vote, but it was a much more complicated and strenuous process. The women involved in the suffrage movement began as abolitionists. I thought it was interesting how the movement for women’s rights began because women were locked out of the anti-slavery discussion, despite being abolitionists themselves. To this end, one of the points of the video that I enjoyed the most was when they talked about how former slave Frederick Douglass himself came forward in support of the women’s suffrage movement. Unfortunately, when slavery was finally abolished and down the line when black men were guaranteed the right to vote, the women’s suffrage movement didn’t achieve the same success.

On this point, I thought it was interesting to consider how the women’s movement has always seemed to be on the “back-burner” of American politics. As more and more classes of men were allowed to vote (the poor, blacks, etc.) nobody besides women themselves seemed to care about their movement. Even as the most radical change in American politics since the creation of the Constitution was occurring with the abolition of slavery, American men were still unyielding and were refusing to even consider a women’s perspective on the matter. Living conditions aside, it seems like women had a social status equal to a slave. Despite all of this, I found it at least interesting how World War I secured the suffrage movement, with women becoming crucial figures in the factories at home while men were off fighting in the war. This time it seems women made themselves heard and refused to be swept aside despite the global conflict. And finally, after the war concluded, women guaranteed their vote.

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Retaining Identity in the Face of Cultural Suppression

Olaudah Equiano’s to-the-point retelling of his life in slavery seems to teach a lesson about identity in the face of adversity. Throughout his biography, Equiano seems to move quickly from story to story, never showing too much emotion or hanging onto any particular event. He recounts numerous horrors he encountered during his life in servitude, while also touching upon some positive moments. One consistent trend that I noticed throughout the piece was Equiano’s consistent naivety as he discovers new cultures. Another thing I noticed was his dry sense of emotion throughout the piece until the very end when he gains his freedom and his emotion becomes more evident.

A theme that I realized as I was reading this piece was the importance of one’s identity in the face of suppression. Equiano lived in several drastically different areas throughout his life in slavery and was culturally shaped by those experiences. Yet, despite living in so many different locations, he still identifies himself as “the African.” Numerous times more in the beginning of the piece Equiano references back to his hometown in a nostalgic fashion. Despite moving around throughout his life it seems as if he never forgot where he came from. This style of cultural resistance reminded me very much of the Black Panther Party that started in the ’60s. The mantra of the Black Panthers stressed resistance to white oppression and sought after a resurgence of African culture that had long been replaced in America. Despite being several hundred years apart, it is stories like Equiano’s that were the inspiration for movements like the Black Panthers. Stories about the cruelty of slavery and oppression fueled the very cultural resistance that these movements stressed.

I think stories like Equiano’s are incredibly important because they don’t hold back at all when describing the everyday violence that slaves encountered. It lets people see the true picture of hate and cruelty that was accepted back then. Above all however, Equiano’s biography teaches a lesson about the importance of identity despite any adversity or suppression.

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