The Loss of Identity of Paul D. and Abundio
IB English A1 Higher Level
World Literature Paper 2A
Date Submitted: January 12th, 2011
Word Count: 1488
The idea of the loss of identity is portrayed both in Beloved by Toni Morrison, and in Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo by the characters of Paul D and Abundio Martinez. While both novels illustrate this theme, the two characters have different relationships with their identity. While Paul D continuously runs away from his identity and past, Abundio Martinez yearns to find it. Beloved, was written to expose the long lasting effects the evil institution of slavery have on slaves, even ...view middle of the document...
After Sweet Home, he ends up in a chain-gang where he suffers many traumatic memories, contributing to his identity as a slave. He remembers this time when he was “locked up and chained down, his hands shook so bad he couldn’t smoke or even scratch properly” (Morrison 21). Here, Morrison uses tactile imagery and vulgarity to convey the dirt of his past. This tone connotes Paul D’s bitter feelings towards his past. Finally, he escapes one rainy day with the other slaves to a Cherokee Tribe who tell him to run North by following the blossoming flowers. He arrives in Cincinnati as a free but broken man, running away from his past, opening the novel.
Paul D, like many slaves at that time has been so traumatized to a point where individualism and value are forgotten. Even from the point that Paul D is given his name, he questions his identity as his brothers are distinguished only by a mere letter: Paul F and Paul A. With each further reference as “the Pauls”, connotes that he slowly just becomes a Paul, nothing more. He begins to question his worth and then turns to his owners to find his value which is evident as he thinks, “Schoolteacher would know. He knew the worth of everything” (Morrison 269). One day, he overhears the men talking and “for the first time learns his worth” (Morrison 267). He overhears that “this here one”, a reference to himself, was worth a total of nine hundred dollars – “the dollar value of his weight, his strength, his heart, his brain, his penis, and his future.” (Morrison 267). Here this money symbolizes value, and Paul D’s apparent lack of it.
When Paul D finally escapes to Cincinnati, he appears at the doorstep of 124 as a wanderer. His only identity and worth is what he learned he was in the past - $900 worth of flesh. When he arrives to begin his new life, it is evident that he tries to suppress his past and his only sense of identity. This idea is portrayed as Paul D locking his past away in his tin tobacco box. For instance, Sethe and Paul D are reminiscing about Sweet Home outside of 124. However, as Sethe continues to reminisce, Paul D cannot stand talking about the past and decided that “He would keep the rest where it belonged: in that tobacco tin buried in his chest where a red heart used to be” (Morrison 86). This red color symbolizes life and suggests his lack of it.
Paul D does not intend to open that tin box. In fact, he feels that this tin box is rusted shut. Morrison incorporates an olfactory motif when he claims he has no intention to “pry it loose now in front of this sweet sturdy woman, for if she got a whiff of the contents it would shame him” (Morrison 86), indicating the foulness of his past. This is how Paul D chooses to start his life, and intended on continuing to. However, with Beloved’s appearance, Paul D is confronted with the past and as the novel progresses, Paul D’s tin box begins to loosen and Paul D must embrace the past and his identity that he constantly runs...