tow fictions compare and contrast them
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The following excerpt is from a review. The review is linked in the source below;
Dessa Rose is a good option to replace Beloved. Published just a year before Beloved, this novel touches upon many of the same themes: the dehumanization of slavers and the enslaved, the complexity of relationships among people who were enslaved, race relations among freedpeople and sympathetic whites, and the specific experiences of women/mothers in slavery. In the case of Dessa Rose, this last point is clearly an emphasis of Williams, whose two main characters' process of conflict and coming-together reveals to them and to the reader how an understanding of our common humanity can help people recognize the pain and wrongness of slavery as well as a way to heal from it.
There are many similarities between Williams' Dessa and Morrison's Sethe. Both loved and lost a man of their choosing; both had a child by that man; both escaped slavery while pregnant; both were in prison after committing a violent act; both begin to heal when sensitive men enter their lives and reverse the meaning of their scars. Dessa has mental and physical scars as painful as Sethe's, and these are, I think, essential to the discussion of slavery. The scars represent not only the brutality of the slavers but the memory and legacy that has to be acknowledged and dealt with for the nation to move on. As I mentioned earlier, Williams provides a storyline for healing of individuals within the community of former slaves, between blacks and whites, and also within individual whites. As such, the novel does not presume too much; it is based on true events and possibilities--and a lot of research.
Some other differences worth noting:
Morrison's book clearly is haunting. There are unforgiving memories embodied in the character of Beloved. There is an important emphasis on some of the worst violence within slavery: the mechanical devices like the bit and the brutal, public humiliation and even execution. There is also part of the book set during Reconstruction, with its particular brand of racial violence. The novel helps us to discuss so much of the promise and failure of Reconstruction.
Another major difference is how each author includes the perspective and voice of white people. In Beloved, the reader is wrenched into that perspective at the center of the book, the moment the slavecatcher and Sethe's former owner arrive at 124 to reclaim her and her children. It's an incredible shock to be thrust into the hateful language at the moment of greatest crisis for Sethe and her family. It plunges the reader back into that reality, the deep immorality that allowed slavery to continue. Later in the novel, we get a smaller glimpse into the residual racism of the abolitionist Bodwin, as he considers his own fate since slavery times, riding back to the "house on Bluestone Road" after many years' absence. In Dessa Rose, Williams begins the book from the white perspective, and it is a multi-layered approach: the sentiments of one profiteering from slavery (though not a slaveholder himself), and two people who took the story of Nat Turner for themselves, Turner's contemporary and the recorder of his alleged story, Thomas Grey, and William Styron, who took liberties with Turner's story in the 1960s. This beginning is confusing because the character's intent and language are so tangential to the story the reader wants to understand--why Dessa is a prisoner. The reader only "hears" Dessa as he records her speech, and so she is trapped in the prism of his limited view of her humanity. This is frustrating! and I almost dismissed the book, until Williams relieved me of that frustration by switching to Dessa's voice. And just when I began to sense something of Dessa's story, she and I were swept away again, the unexpected escape from her jail cell abruptly reported by the initial white man's voice. The second part of the book began with a new and still more confusing white voice, this time a woman. But this time, the white person undergoes a psychological self-examination that serves as an extraordinary contrast to the other white person's perspective, one made even more sharp near the end, when these two white characters' now vastly different views on Dessa are described through Dessa's eyes. It is a satisfying reversal from the opening pages.