In the list of the most tackled themes for literary works, freedom and love probably top the list. The Novels “Night” and “Beloved” are some examples of the literary pieces which intertwine these two popular concepts. Basically, the books dwelled on stories of slavery and brutality which ultimately destroyed the lives of the fictional characters. In this paper, the researcher tries to examine how these books address the importance of freedom and love in terms of living a life of meaning and purpose. The Lack of Freedom Can Deny Worth
Both literary pieces demonstrate that without freedom, a person can ultimately loose his sense of self, and thus stripping the individual of his love for himself and his worth as a human being. The lack of worth is often initiated by the perpetrators or those who enslave. However, through continuous exposure to maltreatment, discrimination, and intolerant violence, the enslaved may loose hope, and in the end – accept the fact that he and his life are indeed worthless and that there is no point of loving himself and his fellows. This is clearly shown in the first novel.
In the beginning of the “Night”, the Jews who were brought to the Nazi camp found relief in caring for each other. They also turned to religion and their God at times when they feared for their lives. In particular, Eliezer excessively prayed seeking salvation, security, and purpose in his faith and believing that God would not let evil prevail. The Jews also tried to seek relief from supporting Zionism. To a certain sense, the captives tried to preserve their worth as a human being through loving and caring. (Wiesel) However, brutal experiences forced them to thwart their beliefs and their worth.
They had to see babies that were burned in open pit furnaces. Such event is very demoralizing to people since babies are often regarded as symbols of pure and innocent lives which needed love, not brutality. Apart from that, they were also forced to watch the hanging of their fellow Jews, people whom they loved and cared for. Such experiences combined with the inhumane treatment of Nazis gradually led the Jews to believe that they were basically nothing but slaves – individuals who have no purpose in life but to serve the superior race.
They were somehow, undeserving of love and life, which will only be wasted through unjustifiable and imposed death. In “Beloved”, the slaves were liberated but one can see that their liberation was probably too late in the sense that slavery already ruined their “sense of self”. Take the case of Paul D. As a slave, he was treated with utmost cruelty by the “school teacher”. When he tried to escape with Sixo, they were captured and Sixo was killed. Paul D was then subjected to humiliation when he was forced to wear an iron bit much like a horse. He also suffered from pitiless beatings and torturing of the ‘chain gang’.
As a result of these inhumane treatments, Paul D often felt insecure and unconvinced of his humanness and manhood. (Morrison) In the case of Sethe, she was also treated as an inferior being that, as the school teacher notes, has “animal characteristics”. She was violated by men and even whipped almost to death, despite the fact that she was pregnant. As a result of these experiences, she felt a feeling of self-hatred for becoming a slave. Sethe also cannot find a sense of satisfaction or fulfillment in her own self. That is why she saw motherhood as the only chance for her to redeem her worth.
Thus, she regarded her children, especially ‘Beloved’ as her “best thing. ” By being so selfless to the point of martyrdom, it seems that Sethe did not possess any love for herself. Rather, every loving emotion is directed to her children. The Lack of Freedom Can Distort a Person’s Sense of Life and Love The two novels also showed that slavery can greatly alter a person’s view of living and loving. Basically, the lack of freedom can introduce seemingly irrational and unreasonable perspectives that are derived from sheer fright, panic and anxiety.
In “Night”, the lack of freedom reduced the lives of the Jews as nothing but mere struggles for survival. Through the extensive “selection” process promoted by the Nazis, the Jews developed the idea that the fittest are truly the only ones who can live. This is demonstrated by the fact that those who were considered as ill and weak were quickly exterminated while the “strong” ones were used for labor. The idea of the “survival of the fittest” was further enforced by the scarcity of resources in the camp. There was too little food and water and this prompted the Jews to compete against themselves.
What’s worse was that the competition even prompted the prisoners to lose their sense of love and respect for their fathers. As noted by one of them: Listen to me, boy. Don’t forget that you’re in a concentration camp. Here, every man has to fight for himself and not think of anyone else. Even of his father. Here, there are no fathers, no brothers, (and) no friends. Everyone lives and dies for himself alone. (Wiesel) In a sense, without freedom the lives of the Jews became “animalistic”. They lost their regard for familial relations along with the loss of their hopes to be free.
Without freedom, they had no love; and without love, their lives seemed to have no meaning. Elizier further demonstrates this point through his narration of a son’s beating of his father because of a fight over food on the train to Buchenwald. (Wiesel) In “Beloved”, the most twisted result of slavery is shown through murder. In the story, the schoolteacher wanted to take Sethe and her children back into the barn where slaves were dehumanized. Instead of surrendering her children however, Sethe decided to kill them rather than forcing them into a life without freedom.
Through this act, Sethe demonstrated that life without freedom is worse than death. She somehow equated death as the only way to escape slavery and achieve freedom. For her, the act of murdering her own children – cutting their throat with a handsaw – was an act of love. Paul D explained Sethe’s actions: She just flew. Collected every bit of life she had made, all the parts of her that were precious and fine and beautiful, and carried, pushed, dragged them through the veil, out, away, over there where no one could hurt them…Outside this place, where they would be safe.
(Morrison) In conclusion, the two novels, “Night” and “Beloved” show that without freedom, individuals can lose their idea of “love” – both in terms of self-love and love for others. Continuous demoralization and dehumanization can ultimately ruin a person’s concept of love and life. Moreover, such acts can drain purpose and meaning in living. Works Cited: Morrison, Toni. Beloved. New York: Knopf, 1987. Wiesel, Elie. Night. New York: Bantam Books, 1960.
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