In the first few weeks of this semester’s classes, I have been thinking a lot about Toni Morrison’s Beloved. The concept of the story gripped me the moment I heard it. I was initially worried about the theme of infanticide, because it’s a very difficult thing for me to read, but once I read about the inspiration for the book, it became much easier to read about. The thing that most disturbs me about the topic is the sheer brutality of the action, but after reading Mervyn Rothstein’s article “Toni Morrison, In Her New Novel, Defends Women” in class, I was able to separate the violence of the action from the intention. Where as I had at first assumed that the murder of the child would be a villainous act with the intent to hurt them, my worries had been assuaged by the revelation that the act was one of mercy. The act as a whole, intentions and all, is neither wholly good nor bad, it rests in a moral threshold between admirable and admonishable. Sethe’s goal was not to hurt the child or abandon it, but to protect it, and due to the trauma she received in slavery, the best way for her to do that was to end its life. The context surrounding the topic made it easier to stomach it. I’m the kind of person who views the world in shades of gray rather than put everything into a category of black or white. Most things fall somewhere in the middle, on the threshold between good and bad, much like Sethe’s actions in Beloved.
A threshold isn’t just a middleground where point A meets point B, a threshold could be an entrance to a different place, literally and metaphorically. These first few weeks of the semester have been a threshold that I must cross in order to succeed in my classes. I must transition from my habits and the mindset I had been in over winter break into a mindset that will keep me motivated in my classes. It’s not an easy transition, and I tend to struggle with it every single semester, even after going to school for the last fifteen years of my life. I would say my biggest problem has been feeling as though I have to do everything by myself. Afterall, how am I going to prove that I am capable if I can’t do it on my own without any help or assistance? This mindset has not only affected my schoolwork but also how I deal with interpersonal problems and my own mental health. If I faced a problem by myself and manage to come out the other side, then I proved to myself that I could, and therefore, did not need any help going forward. This is not true. This only makes my life harder. A goal I have set for myself this semester is to stop doing that. I must recognize the fact that if I am the “Sethe” or “Dante” of my own story, I don’t have to traverse “Hell” by myself. I can look for help and find my “Stamp Paid” or “Virgil” to guide me through it and provide assistance when I need it.
Which now brings me to the topic of this essay. I think the way this class is graded is an excellent way of guiding students through a daunting level-400 english course while also ensuring they take responsibility for their own learning. It removes a significant amount stress from the class, allowing us to fully focus on the course material. Being graded on our growth puts emphasis on self improvement. The goal of the class is no longer to get an A, but to actually learn something from the class. It’ll allow students to fully absorb the material without fear of failure because the act of putting effort into learning is what their grade is based on. It puts the professor in the position of Virgil leading Dante through a dark and unfamiliar situation, which makes the “Hell” of schoolwork easier to bear. Without the burden of needing this essay to be perfect, I am able to get my thoughts out on paper and know that I will have the opportunity to improve my writing skills for future assignments. All this to say that I deeply apologize for the non sequitur that I’m about to move onto.
One topic that we discussed in class that I found interesting was that of Patterson’s Slavery and Social Death. In class, “social death” was defined as being targeted by the law without being protected by it. Obviously, this is specifically about slavery, but I see that idea present in all forms of oppression. In general racism that continues into modern day, there’s housing discrimination such as redlining and gerrymandering, there’s overpolicing of non-white neighborhoods, and strict drug laws that disproportionately affect people of color due to that very overpolicing. Social death also happens to women in the case of Roe v. Wade’s recent overturning. Women’s bodily autonomy is being restricted without further legislation to give them options in the event of an unwanted pregnancy. When it comes to transphobic legislation, lawmakers in many states are making gender-affirming healthcare less accessible without enforcing any legal protections for trans people, who are now in even more danger without being able to transition.
All in all, I’m looking forward to the rest of this class so that I may improve my structure when it comes to long essays like this one.