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Author: Katherine Fell

The Hidden Meaning in the “Haunted House”

Upon reading the first three chapters of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, it becomes evidently clear that the house where Sethe and Denver live is haunted in more ways than one. Early on we learn that Sethe is haunted by the house because her unnamed child is buried there with a headstone that simply reads “Beloved.” Denver is scared to live there because of how isolated it makes her feel. However the cultural and emotional significance that the house has on both Sethe and Denver goes much farther beyond this.

The house holds significant influence for Sethe. Despite being an escape slave, she is not yet truly free. she feels trapped by her home, and I think that this lack of autonomy can be translated into what was also effecting her culturally in the story. She may have escaped the horrors of slavery, but even freed slaves were still horribly mistreated and struggled to become involved and respected members of their communities. While she is no longer enslaved, she is still subject to the racism and discriminatory culture that plagues America. In addition to being trapped and isolated because of her race, I thought that Sethe was also being trapped in the household because of the fact that she is a woman and a mother. Not only are there ramifications about her race in this time period, but Sethe is also trapped and held back because of her gender. I look forward to reading about how Morrison explores these themes as the novel continues.


The Cost of Compromises

The element of the videos that we watched for Thursday’s class that left the greatest impression on me was the fact that in order to consolidate power and gain for followers, leaders of the women’s suffrage movement published horribly racist sentiments. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony were desperate to gain support from wealthy southern women in order to forward the women’s suffrage movement. In order to gain support from this audience, though, they wrote truly heinous things against African Americans. While this tactic proved to be effective in bringing more women together in the fight for the vote, was this sacrifice really worth it? It’s hard to say, given that the Nineteenth Amendment was eventually passed by Congress and women were granted the right to vote in America. The question is that would women have won the right to vote had these feminist leaders not resorted to racist sentiment in order to gain followers?

Since Stanton and Anthony have been immortalized in American history due to their efforts in the name of women’s rights, their words will live on forever. The fact that such racist sentiments are attached to their names leaves a deep scar on their legacies, in my opinion. How are we supposed to support a cause for equality between the sexes when they don’t support equality between races? The compromises that people make for the sake of their causes can seriously alter the way in which history views their story.

These ideas are still very relevant today. Donald Trump is constantly called xenophobic, homophobic, and racist by countless people and media outlets. These accusations do have some foundations, as the language that he uses in speeches, rallies, and tweets indicates that. However, there is no way for us to truly know what Trump’s real thoughts and feeling are on minorities in this country. While there is no way for us to certainly know if he believes that white people are a superior race, we do know that these campaign tactics were very effective in the 2016 election. Trump tapped into some of the darkest sentiments that exist in this country, and was able to harness those sentiments into votes in his favor. Again, a political figure used questionable tactics to further their cause.


Identity and It’s Context in Cultural Resistance

Upon reading excerpts from The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, I couldn’t help but think about how the identity of the author, and how the author identifies themselves, affects the context of whatever work of culture that they bring into the world. Equiano didn’t define himself as African American nor Anglo American, despite spending significant parts of his life in both England and what would be the United States. Instead, he identified himself simply as “the African,” bringing about a new meaning to his narrative and affecting the ways in which it is interpreted today.

In the short biography on Equiano before the chapters, the author brought up The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, another harrowing autobiography written by a freed slave, exposing the atrocities that were bring committed against African Americans as a result of slavery. Last semester, I read The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass for my statesmanship class in Jepson. As I was reading the chapters from The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, I immediately noticed similarities in the horrors that both men endured as slaves, making both works truly eye opening and sobering. Why is it then, that The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is still one of the most renowned works of American literature, and Frederick Douglass himself has been immortalized into one of the most important figures in American history? Timing is important to consider here, as Equiano’s autobiography was published much earlier than Douglass’ narrative. Douglass’ campaign for abolition in conjunction with the Civil War made his message much more difficult to ignore.

I also think that it is important to consider identity, though. Douglass undoubtedly an American statesman, and the rhetoric that he used in his autobiography and his speeches was important in his lifelong fight against the institution of slavery. Equiano, however, just identified himself as “the African,” which I think significantly alters the way in which his work is read and understood in today’s context. Identity is an incredibly important factor when talking about a work of cultural resistance.