The number of Africans estimated killed on the Middle Passage. They never made it to the life of bondage and stolen identity. Dying then may have been a blessing, never having to live a life knowing freedom was on the other side of the fence, never having to have live a life of freedom tainted brutal experience of having no self. Toni Morrison's Beloved depicts the lives of former slaves who are trying to live within the restraints of a traumatizing past. It is Morrison's use of parallel characters which emphasizes the degree to which slavery penetrated the human soul. Sethe and Paul D shared the traumatizing experience of slavery at Sweet Home, and were brought back to the emotions they felt there through the presence of Beloved. No matter how these characters attempted to block emotions of the past, slavery proved to be a more powerful force, destroying their identities. .
Both Paul D and Sethe lived on Sweet Home plantation- a haven from the other slave communities of the south. Sweet Home's key difference lay in Garner's treatment of his slaves. Their relationship was "true metal"-the slaves "were believed and trusted, but most of all they were listened to (125)." Garner treated his slaves as men, men whom he "bragged about while the other farmers stood shaking their heads (10)." Mrs. Garner went as far as to even allow for Sethe and Halle to be wed- a relationship which many felt beyond the emotional capacity of blacks. Few shared the Garners" sentiment on the treatment of slaves, which became clear to the Sweet Home community when schoolteacher took control of the plantation. His method of running the farm matched the landscape of brutality which existed just outside the Sweet Home fences. Slaves were not men, they were objects, possessions, machines of labor. Schoolteacher destroyed their identity, reduced them to animals, sometimes even more inferior. Paul D, looking back on his experiences at Sweet Home, remarks, "School teacher changed me.