How can you relate Beloved to Du Bois's The Souls of Black Folk?

Both books are concerned with the theme of how slavery and its aftermath have negatively affected black identity. Both books focus on the damage caused by white racism to the self-image of African Americans. But there are important differences between the two works. In The Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois primarily focuses on the damage to black identity caused by slavery itself (see chs 1-3). He also discusses some of the negative effects of being a "double-conscious" or "two spirited" people (see chs 4-5). For example, he argues that blacks' divided social status makes it difficult for them to ever feel fully at home in America (ch 6).

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Du Bois's powerful and still-important The Soul of Black Folks argues that the black soul or spirit is destroyed if blacks don't stand up for equal rights and insist on the opportunity to live with full dignity and to fully develop their gifts in U.S. society. For example, he contend...

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Du Bois's powerful and still-important The Soul of Black Folks argues that the black soul or spirit is destroyed if blacks don't stand up for equal rights and insist on the opportunity to live with full dignity and to fully develop their gifts in U.S. society. For example, he contend in his chapter on Booker T. Washington that Washington's accommodationist stance in which blacks were urged to accept second class citizenship in return for some limited economic gains, though popular at the time, was crippling and destructive to the black soul.

Likewise, Beloved shows that degrading experiences at the hands of whites warp and destroy the black spirit. For example, when Halle sees the Schoolteacher's nephews humiliating his pregnant wife by holding her down and drinking her breast milk, this breaks his spirit and drives him insane. Sethe herself would rather kill her children than have them end up in slavery.

In both books, living with dignity and self-respect is portrayed as more important than mere survival. In both books, the fully-realized black soul is valuable, while a dehumanized life is shown to be hardly worth living.

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One parallel between Beloved and The Souls of Black Folk is the way in which Du Bois's son, Burghardt, dies because he can not access medical care as an African American. In Beloved, Sethe attempts to kill her children to prevent their possible return to slavery after they have escaped from the slave-holding South. One of Sethe's daughters dies as a result. Though the death of Du Bois's son is different than the death of Sethe's daughter, their fates are similar in that they result from the horrors of racism and slavery. Du Bois writes about the existence of the "color line," and the way in which it affects all of American society. Beloved is also about the after effects of slavery and the way in which it still taints American society.

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