Unformatted text preview: Paul D tells Sethe "You have two legs...not four," (194) right after he finds out that she tried to kill her children. The point he's trying to make here is that she is a human, not an uncivilized animal, which is how he sees the act of trying to kill your own children. This would obviously be offensive to anyone, but it is even more so to Sethe because she overhears Schoolteacher one day telling his nephews to make a diagram of Sethe and list her human-like characteristics on one side and her animal-like characteristics on the other (228). This is horrifying, even to Sethe who hardly knows what it means and has to go ask Mrs. Garner. She later says she was so upset and humiliated by it that she never told anyone, not even Halle. There are multiple references in the books where slaves are compared to animals and treated like animals. Paul D is forced to have a bit in his mouth, a tool designed for horses. When Schoolteacher catches Paul D and Sixo trying to escape he speaks to them and refers to Sethe as animals saying, "And maybe with the breeding one, her three pickaninnies and whatever the foal might be..." (267). Using the words breeding and foal, words used to describe animals is incredibly degrading to Sethe and her children. All of the slaves are also sold for a price, as if they were animals. All of these comments are offensive, and they all add together to take their toll on Sethe and the other slaves. These comments all her life have led her to feel like less than a human, which is why when Paul D, another slave, someone who shares her background and has felt the way she has felt, when he calls her this it is much more hurtful. ...
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- Fall '08
- English, Slavery in the United States, Tell, Sethe