What is "Slavery" through Sethe's eyes?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would say that "having too many yesterdays" is an integral part to Sethe's conception of slavery.  Certainly, the institution of slavery, America's "original sin," would constitute much of what Sethe's vision.  Yet, I think that one of the most powerful elements of Morrison's work is the idea that individuals can become imprisoned by their past.  This happens on emotional and political levels and is one that is quite relevant when discussing slavery and its effect on the individual.  It is the horror of Sethe's past that imprisons her, causing her to not trust, and not be able to place faith in love. When Paul D says to her that "she is her best thing," her response of "I am?" helps to underscore that from an emotional point of view, the shackles are still placed on her soul.  The inability to see tomorrow and be trapped only in the curse of yesterday would be one element of this slavery that Sethe experiences.