Taiyo and Paul D tell their past stories

Taiyo Olorode11/11/2017Humanities IVRashaad PhillipsThis is a story to pass on about the story not to pass onA slave mother hides with her children from the slave catchers in a shed. Footsteps of boots ring in the distance. The mother brings her index finger to her lips to signal her children to be silent. Suddenly the silence is broken by the two men who storm the shed. Before the men have time to think about capturing the mother and her children, the mother slits the throat of one of her daughters. Blood from the girl’s neck splatter over her siblings. She picks up another child by the feet and begins swinging her around in an attempt to end her life. The men look surprised and abandon the scene. This is one of Sethe’s traumatic memories where she was forced to kill her children to avoid the brutality of Schoolteacher and prevent her children from entering slavery. These traumatic memories are damaging enough to possess alone, but when these memories make up one’s identity and life story, it makes it hard to move on from it because you are constantly reminded by it every time you explain your past to someone. Although storytelling makes it hard to move on from traumatic memories, Sethe and Paul D tell their past stories because it is a way for victims of slavery to share their identities and relate with one another.Storytelling makes it hard to move on from traumatic memories caused by slavery. In the beginning of the novel, Denver points out the fact that Sethe and Paul D cannot stop talking about Sweet Home. Denver points out, “How come everybody run off from Sweet Home can’t stop talking about it? Look like if it was so sweet you would have stayed.” (Morrison 16). In response to Denver’s question, Paul D replies “True, true. She’s right, Sethe. It wasn’t sweet and it sure wasn’t home.” (Morrison 16) then subsequently shakes his head. Not only does Denver notice that Sethe and Paul D have a hard time moving on from Sweet Home, she triggers Paul D to reflect on how Sweet Home wasn’t sweet but is brought up in conversations often. The subsequent shaking of Paul D’s head symbolizes his frustration for not being able to detach himself from his slave life at Sweet Home.  Later on in the novel Paul D tells this story about living with the last of Sweet Home, living with an Iron Bit in his mouth and how he felt less powerful than a rooster named Mister. Paul D locks his past traumatic memories in a tobacco tin which replaces his heart in an attempt to move on from his past. “Saying more might push them both to a place they couldn’t get back from. He would keep the rest where it belonged: in that tobacco tin buried in his chest where a red heart used to be.” (Morrison 86). Toni Morrison is trying to tell us that Paul D’s traumatic experiences are trapped in his tobacco tin and brought out if he feels the need to explain them to someone. The tobacco tin an artificial heart that Paul D created to safeguard his fears and trauma. Although storytelling may bring out terrifying past experiences, it is inevitable because it is how victims of slavery can relate to each other.Sethe and Paul D share their past experiences as a way to show their identity and to relate to each other regardless of how traumatic the event was. Upon Paul D’s arrival of 124, Sethe and he get intimate and talk about their past memories at 124. Sethe mentions her situation at Sweet Home when two white men stole her breast milk and eventually beat Sethe because she told them to Mrs. Garner. “After I left you, those boys came in there and took my milk. That’s what they came in there for. Held me down and took it. I told Mrs. Garner on em. She had that lump and couldn’t speak but her eyes rolled out tears. Them boys found out I told on em. Schoolteacher made one open up my back, and when it closed it made a tree. It grows there still.” (Morrison 19-20). Sethe is a product of Slavery where her identity was defined by her owner. The only form of identity she is left with is the traumatic experiences of slavery because she wasn’t able to shape her own. Regardless of how much trauma the memory might have caused her, she decides to share it with Paul D so he can understand her better. Sethe earlier in the book talks to Beloved about her past in Sweet Home regardless of it being traumatic. Sethe answered all of Beloved’s questions for her “”Where are your diamonds” “Your woman she never fix up her hair?” And most perplexing: Tell me your earrings.” (Morrison 69). After answering Beloved, Sethe realizes “every mention of her past life hurt. Everything in it was painful or lost.” (Morrison 69). Every mention of her past life hurt but Sethe talked about her past to give Beloved a chance to understand her as a person.     Although storytelling makes it hard to move on from traumatic memories, Sethe and Paul D tell their past stories because it is a way for victims of slavery to share their identities and relate with one another. Toni Morrison is trying to teach us that the dynamic of something very simple such as storytelling which has been a way for humans to establish connections with one another can be a nightmare when we are dealing with horror stories of slavery. No character in Beloved has been healed through the act of storytelling or reflecting on past traumatic experiences.  The characters in the book were faced with the dilemma of whether or not they should talk about past traumatic experiences or store it into a tobacco tin just as Paul D did.

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