Sethe and Ruby: Dehumanization

“’No, no. That’s not the way. I told you to put her human characteristics on the left; her animal ones on the right.’” (Beloved 228)

Today somebody in class brought up the part in Beloved in which Schoolteacher dehumanizes Sethe by teaching children that she is like an animal. I too recalled this part of Beloved while reading Paradise and saw even further how cruel and ignorant it is to dehumanize a human being for their race. However cruel and ignorant it is, it seems commonplace in the setting of Morrison’s books. It struck me hard when I read about Ruby’s death on page 113 and how it was entirely due to racism.

When Ruby, the woman the town is named for, fell ill and needed serious medical attention, no one would see her, “No colored people were allowed in the wards,” (Paradise 113). When they finally found a place that would “help” Ruby, she ended up dying in the waiting room. Not only was this the one place that offered to help, but the nurse who saw them was going to get Ruby a veterinarian. A doctor who treats animals.

This story baffled me at how avoidable it could have been if they had simply seen Ruby as a person, which is what she was. Instead of an animal who’s life didn’t deserve the attention. We’ve come a long way from this sort of treatment but our nation certainly still needs to work on acceptance. Equality is so important, and still so ignored. When will it truly be reached?


**Unrelated side note: I recently dreamt that I told my boyfriend to acknowledge his eyebrows because of a class I’m taking. Eyebrows have found their way into my subconscious mind.

One Reply to “Sethe and Ruby: Dehumanization”

  1. Hi Julie,
    I noticed how in “Paradise” the nurse offered to call a vet for Ruby. I like how you’ve made this connection to “Beloved.”
    I think it is also important to bring up places where Morrison has called or likened her characters to animals. In “Beloved” when Sethe is pregnant with Denver, Denver is compared to a baby antelope. While Morrison does not compare Billie Delia to a horse, as a little girl BD rides a horse so her naked bottom is on its back. Billie Delia is then scrutinized for this, but if she was as black as the other girls of the 8-rock families, it wouldn’t matter. Later in the novel, Connie says of pregnant Pallas: “[She] could be carrying a lamb, a baby, a jaguar” (249).
    How do these images change/affect the negative connotations associated with white people calling black people animals? How does Morrison accept and/or defy the way in which black people are compared to animals?

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