Kindness (Blog Question 11/10)

Where do we find kindness in this novel? In any of the novels that we have read? Is Eric’s sleeping with Cass a kind of “kindness”? Is Vivaldo “kind” when he doesn’t tell Richard that he hates his novel? Is Vivaldo “kind” when he takes  Rufus for dinner…or when he stays the night with him after sending Leona away? Is Soaphead Church attempting to give Pecola Blue Eyes “kindness”? Are Tish’s parents “kind” to Fonny? Is the taxi driver “kind” to Sharon in Puerto Rico? Is Baby Suggs “kind” to the community when she makes the feast? Is Sethe “kind” to Paul D when he is pushed out of the house? Is Sethe “kind” when she kills her already crawlin child? Does kindess signify/ mean differently in oppressed or marginalized communities? Do your answers to this question say anything about how we define kindness, for whom it is for, its absolute and relative meanings?

6 Responses to Kindness (Blog Question 11/10)

  1. Aly Thomas says:

    I think a way that we can imagine kindness, that seems to be a common denominator within many of the novels, is that it’s a way to relieve someone of a situation of discomfort or abuse. For Eric, he is Cass’s getaway, away from Richard. Vivaldo saves Rufus from the consequences of his violence towards Leona going further. And Sethe is saving her child from the horrors of slavery. Kindness does important work when it saves another person from impending abuse or discomfort.

  2. LaShawn Simmons says:

    I think the most appropriate word for some of these scenarios would actually be compassion. Compassion is about “offering our truth to others and accepting the truth of who they are without judgement”. This is critical in marginalized communities because they all share the burden of systematic racism and discrimination but respond to these forces differently. When we honor and recognize where those emotions derive from and so we are put ourself in the other person’s shoes. We realizing that whatever we are saying about them we are capable of doing the same thing. Let’s consider our conversation about Beloved’s presence in the beginning of the book and how Paul D continues to resist its presence while Sethe and Denver arguably honor it. This honoring I would argue is an act of compassion. Perhaps Sethe accepts the terms of the baby’s death and accepts thus the rage and rationally vengeance that is accompanied with the Beloved’s actions. On the other hand, one could argue that fear overpowers compassion in this case. I would also argue that Paul D’s holding Sethe’s breast while kissing her scars is an act of compassion too as they have the mutual experience of being enslaved. Though, his actions could be read as more of an act of lust as we later learn that he doesn’t sees the scars as appeasing as before but more scars. With that being said, depending on one’s definition of kindness or compassion it could be interpreted as something less than kindness.

  3. Abigail Gardener says:

    I would like to say that kindness is universal, but based on what we have read, I believe it does mean something different in oppressed/marginalized communities. For example, this is the second time I have read Beloved, and I do believe now that Sethe’s choice to kill her baby was, in a way, an act of kindness. She did it out of love to save her child from a life filled with suffering in the bonds of slavery. However, when I read this novel for the first time, I was horrified at Sethe’s act and did not understand how killing a child could ever be “kind”. I understand now that my initial reaction was because I have never known or experienced slavery and nor have any of my ancestors. When reading these novels we must understand that kindness can take many forms.

  4. Gilberto Rosa says:

    I talked about this yesterday in a similar context but for the oppressed folk, there is a different way to view kindness. Especially when talking about the confines of the institution of slavery, we must look at what stands out as kind for enslaved folks. Or, are the things they find kind kind still rooted in their oppression? Also outside of the context of slavery, many of the black characters still have a different understanding of kindness that is still deeply informed by race.

  5. Ryan Spencer says:

    I think the concept of compassion that was discussed earlier is a really interesting subject especially because it is partly kindness yet not completely. I think where kindness has a purpose behind it (Paul D is kind to Denver and Sethe when he brings them to the carnival, in part, to win Denver’s favor), compassion has understanding behind it. Sethe, I would argue, is compassionate towards the haunting of 124. She understands its suffering and is sympathetic to it. Compassion seems to have a genuineness, due to the nuance of “understanding” and sympathy, which plain kindness seems to lack.

  6. Sydney Exler says:

    My instinct response is to say that kindness, in fact, does not characterize those moments; instead, I believe that we cannot characterize something as kindness without an active and genuine kind intention. If we do not restrict the definition in some way, I believe we end up with a default definition that assumes the best of people – and in all of the examples above we might conclude that these characters indeed exhibited a kindness of sort with their actions. My impression of kindness suggests an innocence of sorts, an unspoken optimism driving kind thoughts and subsequently kind actions. Specifcially with regard to a definition of kindness for marginalized groups, I think the definition can carry significantly different meanings, and that the intentions of kindness can be understood differently depending on their context and circumstances (their direction). If we think about the basic human need for happiness and security, and consider those who lack in such, kindness can be understood as an extremely influential and necessary action; however, in other circumstances it can be understood as an unspoken basic requirement that frames a group of people. Overall, super interesting idea to consider, and love that we’re talking about kindness on kindness day!

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