Thursday, March 28, 2013

Names in "Beloved"

I feel like the names in the novel "Beloved" are very degrading. Not only do they disrespect and disregard the traditions that the Igbo and other African tribes had regarding naming of members, but they also general disrespect and disregard the humanity of the people themselves. For example Paul D, Paul A, and Paul F are named Paul and have the last name Garner. The fact that they are all named Paul shows that their owners did not care what the slaves were to be called. Also, slaves were not given last names, and if they were, they were the same last names as their owners, such as Garner in the case of all the Pauls, which shows the ownership the whites took over the blacks. It is quite dehumanizing that people are treated as property and are named after their owners to designate the "ownership" that one person has over another.

5 comments:

Michell D said...

I definitely agree that it is dehumanizing to give someone insignificant names or change their names because you care so little about them to call them something they want to be called. However I think it is important to note that they also did not change their names under slavery, but once they decided to be free, many would shed their given names and develop their own ones. I think it is important because it shows slave's rebellion from their past and their nature of lashing out against the thing that caused them so much pain. It represents the power they have given themselves even though it was taken to them and proves they have the tenacity to live on.

Cassidy George said...

I also had no idea that "Jenny" is a name for a female mule. That helped me make a lot of connections about the animal imagery in Beloved. It also made me think of Their Eyes Were Watching God, which we read in 9th grade. Her name was Janie, which seems like a derivative of Jenny. I significantly remember that in TEWWG there is discussion about how the black woman is the "mule" of society. The animal imagery is prevalent in both Beloved and TEWWG, which I find interesting, considering both tackle similar themes and ideas- and both are form the perspective of an African American woman.

Grant Reggio said...

When I think about the lack of attention given towards naming as well as the seeming branding of multiple slaves with the last name of their particular owners, I can't help but gather the impression that from a southern, white perspective, it's only another way of seeing slaves under the circumstances of economic imperatives. Seeing as slave owners already see slaves as their "property", which could be bought and sold, and which might be worth more if they are coming from a plantation that brings more product to the market, it would surprise me if labeling these slaves was a method of making the buying and selling process easier if certain owners were looking for a particular quality of slave. In a not very funny way, it's like checking the five star rating of an application for your phone before you buy it. Now, none of this goes to say that economic imperatives aren't the only thing that the simplistic naming of slaves represents. I certainly agree that it dehumanizes them, and in fact dehumanization works hand in hand if your seeing a human being as a means of economic profit. ----Sorry if my ideas were a little jumbled. :(

Laura N said...

To add to Ian’s point about naming 3 of the slaves on the Garner’s farm Paul. Naming them all Paul takes away some of their individuality. I think there’s a certain uniqueness that a name gives a person because the namer usually thinks hard about it and adds some sentimentality to it. For example, naming someone after someone else obviously has some sentimental value for the namer and the person with the name will eventually appreciate it. Since the 3 slaves have the same name alluding to the bible, but other than that, uninspired, their own identity and individuality is diluted.
Also, I thought it was interesting that Sixo, as he was burning was saying Seven-o. It made me wonder what would happen to Seven-o and Eight-o etc and what had happened to Five-O, and four-o and so on. Maybe Morrison named Sixo and Seven-o that because the cycle of abuse, racism, prejudice and hate existed before the slave trade and continues today. When will that cycle break? Also naming them numbers is dehumanizing.

TSHAH said...

I completely agree that the names in "Beloved" are very degrading towards the slaves. For example: the rooster that Paul D comes in contact with has a name of "Mister", a name which hold a higher status than his own. Names serve a very important purpose in any case as they determine the identity of the individual who holds it. This is evident in the case of Stamp Paid whose name was originally Joshua, but was later self-changed given that Stamp Paid believed he had paid his dues on life with all the struggle that he was force with. By renaming their slaves, and disregarding their character, slave owners essentially dehumanized slaves and was a way of asserting authority.