Blog Question 11/7

That the character whitegirl followed the condition of her mother into indentured servitude cannot be understood as incidental:”…she had me and died right after, well, they said I had to work for em to pay it off. I did, but now I want me some velvet” (40). In what way and to what effect is  Amy Denver’s indentured servitude juxtaposed with Sethe’s enslavement? What are some of the similarities and what is the absolute difference between their experience? How do you relate this to the fact that, in spite of the importance of her name, Sethe, and usually the narrative, refer to her as whitegirl?


4 Responses to Blog Question 11/7

  1. Noah says:

    Amy seems sympathetic to Sethe’s situation, but not unconditionally. It’s particularly telling how she’s willing to help her when it’s dark and they can’t be seen, but when the sun starts coming up, she vanishes, not wanting to be caught with a runaway. I think this helps signify a chief difference between the two.

    Amy’s interactions with Sethe very much illustrate their social and cultural differences. Amy, though having also escaped a position of forced servitude, is white, and as such, she receives a different kind of treatment in this world. Her race is the primary determining factor in how she is perceived and things she is granted access to.

    This certain kind of hope is something that Amy can have, but which Sethe is not granted. Amy could perhaps make it in Boston; she could become successful. The possibility–however slight–that her life might dramatically improve is present for Amy Denver, but unfortunately, these possibilities do not really exist for Sethe, because of the position she’s been assigned.

  2. Siobhan McKenna says:

    The major difference between Amy’ servitude and Sethe’s enslavement is that Amy will not be linked to her servitude forever. Since she is white, Amy is able to freely escape and leave her past as an indentured servant behind her. When she gets to Boston, nobody would question whether or not she was an escaped servant because she is white. Sethe, however, will always be tied to her past as a slave; will never be able to escape it. Therefore, Sethe’s situation has a lot more weight to it than Amy’s does.

    This disconnect in their situations makes it difficult for Amy to understand why Sethe is doing what she is. On one hand, Amy is sympathetic towards Sethe and helps her out because she knows what it’s like to escape this kind of enslavement situation. On the other hand, however, Amy still sees herself as superior to Sethe. For example, when describing the slave that the family she was a servant to owned, Amy explains that “‘She don’t know nothing, just like you. You don’t know a thing. End up dead, that’s what. Not me. I’m a get to Boston and get myself some velvet.'” (94). This assertion of Sethe’s supposed stupidity highlights that Amy thinks of herself as smarter and therefore better than Sethe. In addition, it’s difficult for her to understand that Sethe did not choose to be a servant, unlike Amy’s mother, who would’ve chosen to be an indentured servant. Amy doesn’t understand why Sethe would place herself in such a dangerous and difficult situation because she doesn’t understand the weight and severity of it, so she attributes Sethe’s running away to her supposed stupidity because she can’t see any other viable reason or explanation for it.

  3. Ryan Spencer says:

    I agree with what has been said so far. I think there is a big difference between Sethe’s enslavement and Amy’s indentured servitude. First of all, as mentioned, there is a foreseeable end for Amy. So long as she works for a certain amount of time, she can get her freedom. Sethe on the other hand as a slave was not given much hope of future freedom. Secondly, societies treatment of Sethe and Amy will be much different after their escape from their servitude or enslavement. As mentioned above, Amy will not be suspect as an escapee due to the color of her skin, as Sethe likely would be. Also Amy as a white person probably would have more opportunity than Sethe will as a black person. Its interesting to watch how Morrison puts these two characters side by side. I think its interesting to think about what drives each character North. For Sethe it is freedom and yet for Amy it is velvet. Where Amy is going North for material reason, Sethe is going North to escape. So while they might be compared due to their pasts, it is important to note that Amy and Sethe could not be more different in their pursuits, status, etc. Morrison seems to be putting even the lowest white person next to a black (escaping) slave and demonstrating that, even in the most comparable situation of servitude between black people and white people, the difference between the two groups is vast.

    • Gilberto Rosa says:

      I definitely agree with you here. I would also add that the it takes this shot at freedom that actually moves Sethe to actually believe she can be free. For the enslaved body, the mind is somewhat enslaved too. Slavery alters the minds of the people that it takes. It makes one think that their current conditions are just the way that people are supposed to live and ensures that freedom is something totally unthinkable or so far removed from the present that it seems impossible. Anyway, I think Sethe’s flow of thoughts also changes once the possibility of freedom is introduced.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.