Toni Morrison’s Beloved skillfully delivers on many topics such as slavery, motherhood, ownership,’ remembrance,’ and so on; maintains a storyline that incorporates incidents from the past and the present; and introduces crucial characters. One of the main characters, Sethe, is a former slave who murdered her child, Beloved. Denver is her daughter as well. Morrison used notable quotes to explore the lives, thoughts, and personalities of these three characters, resulting in an excellent novel.
“She is my baby, beloved. She’s my…. She needed to be protected, so I placed her where she would be. But my love was tough, and she’s returned now. I knew she would be…. I won’t never let her go,” by Sethe reveals her nature as loving, devoted, and independent (Morrison 100). It also reveals the adverse effects of slavery. She believes her daughter is better off dead than endure the harrowing life of a slave woman who had no control over her body or children (Morrison 125). At one point, the Schoolteacher’s nephews squeeze out her milk to feed white children (Morrison 8). The whites would not only work, kill, or maim them but dirty them too, implying rape (Morrison 125).
The quote also reveals the perils of motherhood under a slave system. Sethe values motherhood hence her deep love for Denver and her sad memories about her mother whom she can hardly recall (Morrison 30). She is worried that a future with Paul might eclipse Denver who is her number one priority (Morrison 21) and even goes skating with Denver and Beloved (Morrison 90). Slavery has led to ‘rememory” (Morrison 17). Here is Beloved now living with them but the memories are all so painful that Sethe appears to have lost her mind and only regains herself when Beloved leaves (Morrison 119, 137). Her past has come back to haunt her.
The words, “All the time, I’m afraid the thing that happened that made it all right for my mother to kill my sister could happen again. I don’t know what it is,…to make her do it again,” (Morrison 102) by Denver show her to be intelligent, sensitive and fearful. What made her mother kill was slavery from psychological pain. Her sensitive nature is further developed in Paul’s coming which crowds her usual loving mother-daughter space (Morrison 6). It also comes out when she asks Paul if he intends to hang on longer (Morrison 22).
Denver is essential in the novel because she exemplifies fear that is a consequence of slavery, a past occurrence. She is afraid of her mother even though she enjoys her mother’s stories about her birth (Morrison 15). Through her intelligence, she comes up with the statement, “nothing ever dies,”(Morrison 18) which helps with the back and forth movement between the present and the past. Maybe her fear is the reason she warms up to her sister and is not happy with Paul who barks at Beloved’s ghost to disappear (Morrison 9).
“I am not dead I sit the sun closes my eyes when I open them I see the face I lost Sethe’s is the face that left me Sethe … she is my face smiling at me doing it at last ” (Morrison 105) by Beloved emphasize that her death continues to haunt the family and when she says she is not dead, she reveals her dangerous and dreadful side. The family wants to move on, but she is the past that won’t go away. When Paul attempts to touch her mother’s breasts, she shakes the house so violently perhaps warning them that she is not dead (Morrison 8).
Beloved’s presence adds to the plot where she combines the past, present, and future. She belongs to the past, but here she is saying she is not dead which explains her presence in the body of the Beloved who is living in Sethe’s house. Beloved says she has no idea who she is or where she came from (Morrison 32). The sun closing her eyes symbolizes her death, her past, but her seeing Sethe’s face now represents the present and the fact that she is here is an indication of the future. She adds to ‘rememory’ and Denver and Sethe’s observation that ‘nothing ever dies’ (Morrison 18).
Morrison, Toni. “Beloved.” https://is.muni.cz/el/1421/podzim2005/AJ25022/beloved.pdf
Accessed 5 January 2019.