Beloved presents a difficult situation of slavery. It portrays that slavery leaves internal scars, not only in women but also among men. The scars mark bitter reminders to the community of their time at Sweet Home, Kentucky. Sweet Home was a home and place of work for Seth and Paul D. The introduction of large mechanized farming renders the family homeless and jobless forcing them to wander in search of a greener pasture. In the course, their personalities are twisted; some in the course lose their identity. In Paul D’s case, slavery reaped him off his manhood. He is unable to make independent decisions. Paul undergoes several stages of transformation: he is first depicted as a slave, and ends up as a healer and a leader. Paul’s quest for identity is a significant theme in the Beloved.
The first encounter of Paul D in the novel is that of wanderer. He is so separated from himself that he cannot make out the source of the screams he hears. When Sweet Home is attacked, only Seth and Paul escapes, the rest are butchered. Paul D is sold by his teacher to another master, Mr. Brandywine. Out of frustration, Paul tries to kill his master and ends up in prison in Alfred, Georgia.
At Sweet Home, while working for Mr. Garner, Paud D affirms that all the slaves in the firm are men. He says, “so named and called by one who would know” (Morrison 147). From the master, Paul realizes that being a man involve inherited powers from another super human. He questions where Gardner inherited his powers. Paul lives as a benevolent child of a white family tethered to the patriarchal life style. However, he is not a son to the family since he does not inherit manhood. Manhood relies on the ability of a man to wield a gun and come up with his own choices, but as a slave, Paul D is presented with very small choices. He believes, “in their relationship with Garner was true metal: they were believed and trusted, but most of all they were listened to” (Morrison 147). The slaves’ manhood are defined by their master. Paul D has accepted the status quo, he knows Mr. Garner recognizes and shapes their thoughts and feelings. Mr. Garner, on the other hand, elevates the slaves’ status as a prestige. He finds fun as the master of men, rather than of animals.
Paul D realizes his manhood definition suddenly changes when he is transferred to another master. Paul learns that his identity is not constrained to the property of Sweet Homes, but the white slave masters. Unlike his former master, Garner, who preferred his slaves viewed as men, the schoolteacher ripped the slaves any humanity. He treated them as animals or subhuman. The teacher clips Paul D like a bird. He reflects, “First his shotgun, then his thoughts, for schoolteacher didn’t take advice from Negroes” (Morrison 259). Paul notices that the same things Mr. Garner would upload for attracts punishment and “talking back” attitude from the schoolteacher. In the view of the schoolteacher, Paul D manhood is defined by monetary value he can fetch. Paul becomes a White man’s product.
Morrison twists Paul D’s manhood by exposing a new identity, economic identity. In the eye if the the teacher, the slaves are merely defined by their productivity. Morrison brings a different view of manhood, divergent to those of Garner and Paul D’s. Paul’s overhear his worth to be $900 and finds nothing to compare his worth. He concludes that Sethe’s must have more value since she can breed. Paul become more confused when he is adorned in leg irons, collar, chains, and bit while being transferred away from Sweet Home. He passes Mister, a rooster that seemed to have more power than him. Paul says, “schoolteacher changed me. I was something else and that something was less than a chicken sitting in the sun on a tub” (Morrison 86). He believed the people he works under defines his manhood. Mr. Garner gave him higher value than the schoolteacher did.
Slaves’ worth was measured in dollars, since they were considered less than human. Paul spent most of his time wondering whether he is a man. He felt so insecure about his worth. Mr. Garner, their master referred to them as men, which encouraged him. However, the new master treated them as valueless objects. Paul questions what it is to be a man. Paul parallels opportunity to freedom. His failure to attain manhood comes from his own interpretation of masculinity.
Paul D identifies with community responsibility. Paul’s arrival at 124 Bluestone Road was a hope of freedom to Sethe, “she knew was the responsibility for her breasts, at last, was in somebody else’s hands (21). When Paul D enters the house, he accosts “a pool of pulsing red light” (11). As seen in traffic light, this was a sign of stop. Paul’s arrival marked freedom for both Denver and Sethe.
Paul D was brought up in a humble slavery life. However, their character transformation comes along their path for greener pastures. Paul D is restless and can settle anywhere. He tells Seth, “I go anywhere these days. Anywhere they let me sit down” (8). This is an indication that he lacks his roots and he is deeply search for a stable life. His identity is usurped by being sold off, the escape from prison and prison life. As a man, he believes in searching safer grounds for their family, the greener pasture.
The prison life shapes the character. Paul D helplessness is first seen in the Brandywine cells. The cells are small box. At daytime, they are chained together while at night they face sexual assault. He tries to free himself in vain, until his heart fails. He is “resigned to life without aunts, cousins, and children. Even a woman, until Sethe” (261). In the prison, he has lost everything, he recalls his life at Sweet Home, and fails to define himself. The prison ride Paul D off humanity. He no longer talks of his manhood, he is lost in misery.
Paul D mind is filled with his slavery. His mind is filled with painful memories that he want to lock in the rusted “tobacco tin shut” (137). He carries the tin around his neck and near his heart. The tin holds painful memories of his Sweet Home. The tin is also a symbol of his family and reunion with Sethe. Despite his strong memories, Paul tries to forget most bitter parts. Either, it is not clear whether Paul wants the memories to completely dissipate from his mind. However, when he meets Sethe his tin starts to leak with some of his bitter memories.
Religious identity is is a common theme in the protagonist’s life. He arrives in Cincinnati and lives in the church. After struggling with his identity, Paul believes he must be worth before God. At the church, he finds peace and comfort for his pas recollections. He regains the lost humanity to the slave masters. He comes across Denver who informs him of Sethe situation. He finally finds peace-helping Sethe. He tell her, “me and you, we got more yesterday than anybody and need some kind of tomorrow” (322).
Paul D and Sethe’s connection is an important identity search. In the search of womanhood and manhood, the two strikes a balance in their exploration. Through the characters past, present, and future experiences, each experiences life a whole individual. Pauld D realizes that his life is complete when he is next to her, he says, “He wants to put his story next to hers” (Morrison 322). While together, the two expresses the whole life, the research of identity that Morrison has struggled to explore. Paul D is protagonist whose identity crisis is brought by slavery and modernization. Because of the changing society, he finds himself in many challenges. The author has put the stories together to effectively paint each one’s personal identity crisis.
Morrison, Toni. Beloved. New YorK: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2007. Print.