The Denial of Motherhood in Beloved and Crossing the River : A Postcolonial Literary Study of How the Institution of Slavery Has Restricted Motherhood for Centuries
Abstract: The aim of this essay is to explore motherhood in two postcolonial literary works by African American author Toni Morrison and British author Caryl Phillips, who was born in the Caribbean. The essay is based on Morrison’s award winning novel Beloved, which was published in 1987 and was inspired by the escaping African American slave Margareth Garner. It is set just after the American Civil War and the novels deals with the trauma of slavery from the perspective of Sethe, a slave who kills her own daughter to save her from slavery. The second novel on which this essay is based is Caryl Phillips’ novel Crossing the River, which was published 1993 and focused on the African diaspora from different perspectives. Crossing the River is a non-chronological narrative covering four different characters (three African American people and one white slave trader during the eighteenth century). This essay, however, only deals with the last of the four narratives depicting white British Joyce who mothers a child with African American soldier Travis. The hypothesis on which the essay is based is that the institution of American slavery has denied the female protagonists in the two novels, Sethe and Joyce, their maternal selves. The analysis revealed that both women suffer from racial domination, and race, or simply skin color, is what leads to the maternal loss of the two protagonists. Both authors depict the world of the colonizer and the colonized and they address the common pain and guilt shared by black as well as white people.
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