Beloved by Toni Morrison Analysis
In this passage from Beloved, Toni Morrison uses word choice and imagery to express the heavy and infectious nature of the legacy slavery left behind. Morrision uses word choice to express this idea as she states, “In addition to having to use their heads to get ahead, they had the weight of the whole race sitting there. You needed two heads for that.” . In the first part of this sentence, ahead means both advancing forward and also “a head” as in the status of one person. Therefore, it establishes the fact that to accomplish the same feats as a white man it takes multiple black men. Not only is building this status difficult, but coupled with fact that black people have to deal with the stigma surrounding them, it makes it almost impossible for them to rise to a positions of power. This idea is cemented in the last part of the sentence, “You needed two heads for that.”.
Earlier in the passage, Morrison showcases that Stamp Paid knew no black person who led a liveable life even those with respectable jobs such as teachers, doctors, paper writers, and businessmen. To try and accomplish their goals and work towards a liveable life, they had to form two heads and it is already established that it is strenuous enough trying to form one head, but to form, two would be nearly impossible due to low respect and resources.
These racist ideals continued to spread and Morrison uses imagery to help the audience visualize that no matter how much black people tried to reinforce the idea that they were harmless, white people always thought that, “...under every dark skin was a jungle… It was the jungle whitefolks planted in them ” The hefty weight that sits on the backs of black people is the image that white people hold against them; Morrison suggests that the jungle that lives within these black souls does not come solely from their blackness, but rather it was caused by white people, planting that wildness inside of them from rejection of their blackness. Morrison goes on to illustrate the jungle as, “Swift unnavigable waters, winging screaming baboons, sleeping snakes, red gums ready for their sweet white blood...”.
The red gums thirsting for sweet white blood symbolizes the animalistic stigma surrounding black people and the irrational fears that white people harbor for them. Morrison then ends the passage by saying, “The screaming baboon lived under their own white skin; the red gums were their own.” As the mistreatment of black people at the hand of white people continues and the spreading of the jungle persists, it becomes more apparent that the diabolic behaviors that white people were scared of, originated and lie within themselves.