In Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved, both Mr. Garner and Mr.
Bodwin are presented initially as decent men, with views on the black
race that differ from all the rest of the white men in the book. The
readers first impression of each of these men is favorable. With
further reading and thought however, the reader notices more and
more details that tend to change their initial impression. By the end of
the book both men seem to have lost their appeal. Even though there
is very little said against Mr. Garner, and even less against Mr.
Bodwin, it seems that Morrison was trying to cause very mixed
opinions about each one of these characters. In the end, Mr. Garner
seems no less racist than his fellow slave owners, and Mr. Bodwin,
though opposed to slavery also appears to be much more racist than
he lets on.
Mr. Garner is the owner of Sweet Home, the plantation where
Sethe, her family, and others had been slaves before their escape. He
is singled out from the rest of the white men right away. When his
character is first introduced the narrator speaks of him fighting with
other farmers about his slaves being men. “Now at Sweet Home, my
niggers is men every one of em. Bought em thataway, raised em
thataway. Men every one” he had told other farmers (Morrison 10).
With this comment Mr. Garner was fishing for the reaction he loved to
hear, “I wouldn’t have no nigger men round my wife.”, to which he’d
retaliate “neither would I, neither would I”(11).
On the surface Mr. Garner is presented as a very admirable
man. He “ran a special kind of slavery”, Baby Suggs had thought,
“treating them as paid labor” (140). The way…
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…s than noble. Both men
seem to put on a mightier-than-thou air when in public, and try to
appear as non-racist as possible. Yet Mr. Garner owns slaves, an
obviously racist act, even if he does allow them more than other slave
owners would. And Mr. Bodwin who claims to be against slavery, and
has fought to end it, displays in his own house a figure that embodies
slavery. It appears that the only difference between other slave
owners and Mr. Garner, is that they don’t try and hide their racism or
pretend they’re better than anyone else. Mr. Bodwin does not own
slaves, and does not believe in the practice, but he is still racist as we
can see from the figure in his house. Which of these is better? Who
can say? But most people aren’t fond of hipocrits.
Morrison, Toni. Beloved. Markham, Ontario: Penguin Books Canada Limited, 1987
Comparing the Women of House on Mango Street and Bread Givers
The Women of House on Mango Street and Bread Givers
Sandra Cisneros was born in Chicago and grew up in Illinois. She was the only girl in a family of seven. Cisneros is noted for her collection of poems and books that concentrate on the Chicano experience in the United States. In her writings, Cisneros explores and transcends borders of location, ethnicity, gender and language. Cisneros writes in lyrical yet deceptively simple language. She makes the invisible visible by centering on the lives of Chicanos–their relationships with their families, their religion, their art, and their politics.
Anzia Yezierska has written two short story collections and four novels about the struggles of Jewish immigrants on New York’s Lower East Side. Yezierska stories explore the subject of characters’ struggling with the disillusioning America of poverty and exploitation while they search for the ‘real’ America of their ideals. She presents the struggles of women against family, religious injunctions, and social-economic obstacles in order to create for herself an independent style. Her stories all incorporate autobiographical components. She was not a master of style, plot development or characterization, but the intensity of feeling and aspiration are evident in her narratives that overrides her imperfections.
Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street, written in 1984, and Anzia Yezierska’s Bread Givers, published in 1925, are both aimed at adolescent and adult audiences that deal with deep disturbing themes about serious social conditions and their effects on children as adults. Both books are told in the first person; both narrators are young girls living in destitute neighborhoods; and both young girls witness the harsh realities of life for those who are poor, abused, and hopeless. Although the narrators face these overwhelming obstacles, they manage to survive their tough environments with their wits and strength remaining intact.
Esperanza, a Chicano with three sisters and one brother, has had a dream of having her own things since she was ten years old. She lived in a one story flat that Esperanza thought was finally a “real house”. Esperanza’s family was poor. Her father barely made enough money to make ends meet. Her mother, a homemaker, had no formal education because she had lacked the courage to rise above the shame of her poverty, and her escape was to quit school. Esperanza felt that she had the desire and courage to invent what she would become.