Slave narratives are inherently painful readings. The reliving of the authors time in slavery often preceded by a piece by a white man giving authenticity to the tail of escape, also of religious redemption. Beloved adheres to the traditional slave narrative in some aspects, and in some aspects it strays the complete opposite way.
One of the first things we as readers are presented with in Beloved is the theme of pain. “124 was spiteful, filled with baby venom”. This pain and sadness is constant throughout the novel. By focusing on the grief of a slave, Morrison conveys right away that slavery brought such pain and sadness to African Americans. Later on in the novel Sethe reveals her experiences as a slave through a series of flashbacks, including her lashings and beatings, which are described in graphic detail much like in the traditional slave narratives. This pain and grief is only heightened throughout Beloved as Morrison attempts to keep these things in the readers mind throughout the novel.
One theme throughout Beloved that is very common throughout the genre of slave narratives in the loss of identity by dehumanization, one scene in particular stands out; when Sethe walks into the classroom where a lesson taught by Schoolteacher on her “animal-characteristics”. This sort of dehumanization leads to self loathing which not only has immediate effects, but long lasting effects as well. The use of animal characteristics is not unique to Beloved, as in one of the more famous slave narratives Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas shows us that comparisons to animals were not uncommon. Edward Covey is described as a snake by Frederick Douglas throughout the novel, however Frederick also compares himself to an animal at certain points throughout the novel, which a prime example of the lasting effects of the dehumanization that the slave owners had upon the slaves.
A traditional theme in slave narratives is the fear of returning to slavey. In my...