Meanness ( Blog Question 11/8)

“Nobody warned them, and he’d always believed it wasn’t the exhaustion from a long day’s gorging that dulled them, but some other thing–like, well, like meanness–that let them stand aside, or not pay attention, or tell themselves somebody else was probably bearing the news already to the house on Bluestone Road where a pretty woman had been living for almost a month” (185)

This is not Morrison’s first indictment of the community that we have read ( see the Bluest Eye). Does this depiction suprise or conform to the depiction, limited as it might be, of the community thus far? How are your thoughts on the depiction and culpability of the community here? Does it alter your understanding of the causation in the novel? If so which events are clarified? Does it alter your understanding of Sethe’s relationship to and or responsibility for events like the Baby Sugg’s illness, Denver’s isolation, or the boys departure?

3 Responses to Meanness ( Blog Question 11/8)

  1. Noah says:

    I think Morrison is definitely drawing attention to Sethe’s community, but I’m still unsure exactly of what she’s saying. Several pages after the above excerpt, we have a conversation between Stamp Paid and Ella, who are discussing the whereabouts of Paul D: “I ain’t got no friends take a handsaw to their own children…I’m on dry land and I’m going to stay there.” (221).

    Sethe being ostracized by her community is disheartening and tragic, but understandable. From an outside perspective, especially from those who weren’t personally slaves, they can never begin to imagine Sethe’s experiences, and how they influenced her to make such a terrible decision.

    The Misery seems to have affected the entire African American community here for almost two decades now. For example, Baby Suggs ceased her sermons in the Clearing right after. It’s difficult, because as the reader, and someone sympathetic to Sethe, you want people like Ella to accept her, to let bygones be bygones, but I can understand why she still treats Sethe poorly.

    I’m looking forward to finishing the book and examining Morrison’s completed thoughts on community and healing.

  2. Abigail Gardener says:

    The most interesting thing to me with this quote is Morrison’s somewhat nonchalant use of the word “meanness”. She slips it in as almost a suggestion or an afterthought; that “something else” like meanness caused the community to turn a blind eye when they could have helped. It is her use of this word that causes me to think Morrison is, at least in some way, blaming the community for Sethe’s desperate actions. Upon first reading, I didn’t really register the word “meanness”, but it is actually the most powerful word in the sentence, because it implies culpability. To be mean to someone is to deliberately choose to do something that will negatively affect the other person, and Morrison makes it seem as though the community chose not to help Sethe.

  3. Siobhan McKenna says:

    It is definitely interesting to consider that, through the word “meanness”, Morrison makes it seem that the neighbors deliberately didn’t tell Sethe or anyone at 124 what they saw coming. They weren’t simply ignorant to the events happening, but were well informed and intentionally did not tell anyone what they knew. It is mentioned earlier that this exclusion of 124 seems to stem from the feast that Baby Suggs created for the neighborhood on that day that Stamp Paid collected those berries for her. “Her friends and neighbors were angry at her because she had overstepped, given too much offended them by excess” (163). Therefore, the other members of the community see Baby Suggs’ actions and offerings as her showing off what she has, and showcasing that she is above them based on the excess that she has that these other members of the community do not. This scene reminded me of the scene in Grapes of Wrath when the Joads are at one of the many camps they stayed at, and Ma Joad is accosted one of the other mothers there because Ma shared her food with this other woman’s child, accusing Ma of thinking she’s better than everyone else in the camp because she has food to share, which may speak to the competitiveness within minority or marginalized communities. The members within this marginalized community seem to view themselves as all on a level playing field, so when Baby Suggs shows this slight advantage over the rest of them, whether or not this showcasing was intentional, which it doesn’t seem like it was, the community forever turns against her and her family.

    This information definitely helps me understand why 124 and the family are so isolated from the community, and why people have stopped visiting. They are no longer wanted/seen as a member of the community. The meanness of the neighborhood and community on this fateful day for 124 seems to imply that Sethe is not entirely at fault for the events of that day, and other events of the novel. This community, no longer supporting the family, has turned on them and allowed Sethe to kill Beloved, and for 124 to become as isolated as it is, placing some of the blame within the community.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.