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In the book Beloved, Toni Morrison uses the Character Mr. Garner to convey the different forms of slave owners. Although some seem that they are more considerate than others, they are all are still slave owners, and they are all cruel. Mr. Garner is a very insecure man with a lot of power. As a result of his insecurity, he feels that he has to prove his intelligence by the misuse of superiority. He proves his superiority by making the slaves feel that he is the superior to them. Due to Mr. Garners insecurity he makes his slaves believe that he is the most powerful man, and that they can not survive with out him. Mr. Garner compensates for his insecurities about his manliness by treating his slaves less than men.
Garner tries to convince everyone in the town including himself, that he has the most valued slaves because he is the one who raised them. When he is town, talking to some other slave owners he was bragging about how, “y’all got boys…Now at sweet home, my niggers is men every one of em. Bought em that away, raised em thataway. Men every one” (Morrison p.10). To make up for his insecurities, he has to go around proving to everyone that he is the best at what he does, and that is why his slaves are men. The others slave owners believe that since the slaves are black, that is why they are not men. Garner believes since he raised his slaves, and since they only did what he allowed them to do, that are men. He considers himself the smart man of the group. But, by controlling his slaves, he makes them less like men. He thought that if you could call you own niggers men that, it makes you more of a man, “But if you a man yourself, you’ll want your niggers to be men too”(Morrison p.10). He does everything to prove to himself, that he in fact, is the man that is in control of the whole situation. Actually he is trying to make up for his insecurities by bragging to the other slave owners.
In Garners mind, to have his niggers to be considered men, he believes that he has to orchestrate all of their decisions. Pertaining to what they are allowed to do and what they are not allowed to do in daily matters. This makes him feel that he has more control and conceals his own insecurities about his power. Halle has to ask Mr. Garner if he can marry Sethe. She is the only female on the land besides Mrs. Garner. But he still has to have premission to marry her. Garner tells him that they are not allowed to have a ceremony. When Sethe is reflecting about this issue she remembers that, “ They said it was all right for us to be husband and wife and that was it”(Morrison p.59). Sethe and Halle were allowed to be married, but why couldn’t they have decided that on their own. Garner has to make sure that he is secure with all decisions that are going on at sweet home. To make him feel his security with his power, he has to have his say in every matter including love, and whom you are allowed to marry. Garner feels that he has to control everything otherwise it would not be perfect, or he might even lose his power that he has. If he gave his slaves a little power, that would put him in a powerless and vulnerable position. So he uses his authority to control things that should not be controlled, and that is love. When Sethe was talking to Mrs. Garner, Mrs. Garner asked, “Are you already expecting?” “No ma’am”, Sethe said, “well, you will be. You know that, don’t you”(Morrison p.26). Mr. Garner goes to the extent that he has his wife manipulated to know what he wants and that gives him more power over his slaves. All of this is showing that Mr. Garners lack of security has made him gone to major extents to control his slaves and their lives. He is afraid of what they might do, so he has to control everything.
Garner is so insecure about his power, his tries to make his slaves like him. In abnormal ways, he tries to make his slaves think that his is looking out for them. He attmepts to keep them happy so they do not rebel against him, because he is insecure about his own power. Some say, “Mr. Garner acted like the world was a toy he was supposed to have fun with”(Morrison p.139). But, I believe he is afraid of how the world works. He wants to make sure that he has an impact on his slaves “world”. That is why he is so controlling. An example of this is allowing Halle to work extra hours on the weekend to make money for the release of his mother. He is making a statement about his superiority and that he is the good man for allowing him to do this extra work. He is trying to make Halle to feel that he has a debt of gratitude, and then Halle might not question his authority. If Garner wanted to release Baby Suggs, he could of, he did not have to have Halle do the extra work. If he would of just let her go, that would not have been able to re-emphasize his authority and power. Also making him the better man in every situation. In every interaction with his slaves he has to have some sort of power. Garner wants his slaves to feel that they could not survive with out him. He is being a real man for setting her free of slavery, but he is still proving his superiority and insecurity of power.
Garner is showing these reactions because he does not feel that he is the superior in his relationships. He has to over emphasize his power so he receives the respect that he wants. Others questioned Mr. Garner leadership abilities. When Halle is comparing the new slave master to Mr. Garner, he says that, “Not as strong as Mr. Garner but smart enough. He liked the ink I made. It was her recipe but he preferred how I mixed it”(Morrison p.37). This proves that the slaves at sweet home can have some respect of their superiors, but since Mr. Garner was insecure about his power he had to get his respect in unusual ways. By Halle saying “but smart enough”, it is saying that they have questioned Mr. Garners intelligence. So he does have a good reason to feel insecure about his power. But he has put himself in that situation by treating them the way he does. He put himself in that position by making his slaves ask permission for everything.He makes himself believe that they are men but, due to his overcompensation in proving this through his interactions he is just proving that he is more of a man then they are. Also that there is a separation between the two, to make sure he is the one in control.
The difference between Mr. Garner and the other salve owners is that, they can see that there is a difference between their slave, and them as a slave owner. Mr. Garner has to make sure that he is the superior man in every interaction because he has to fulfill his insecurities about power and his manliness. The others don’t feel that they have any thing to prove. He believes that his slaves are not niggers, but that they are men. But in doing his actions he is making them less of a man, and making himself more of a man.
I believe that Toni Morrison had the character Mr. Garner in the book to convey the different forms of slave owners and that although some seem that they are more considerate than others, that they all are still slave owners, and they are all cruel. I think that Morrison was showing his insecurities with himself and that is why he felt like he had to have this power. But it was more than just power; it was a feeling that they would not as good, if it was not for him. This is what Morrison was trying to put that idea into the character of Mr. Garner. That he was just a very insecure man with a lot of power and he did not know what to do but to overcompensate and pretend that he was the nice guy, but in fact he was still a slave owner. No matter how you look at it, he was still mistreating those human beings.