Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2016

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

English

First Advisor

Dr. Richelle Munkhoff

Second Advisor

Dr. Jeremy Green

Third Advisor

Dr. Kwame Holmes

Abstract

By synthesizing Toni Morrison’s historical fiction novel Beloved with the historical records of the Narrative of Henry Watson, A Fugitive Slave, and other documents, readers can distinguish the ways that these texts present the notion of an impossibility of a complete understanding of the black slave experience. Specifically, for the contemporary black reader, the problem of having access to one’s own heritage arises within this impossibility. As an experience that was largely undocumented, and fundamentally distinct from any other experience, the present day audience must learn to accept when limitations arise in their comprehension of this history. These texts both force the readers to take responsibility for the knowledge that can be obtained, and respect the knowledge that remains distanced and unattainable as part of the horrific black slave experience.