Beloved -- Treatment of Ghost Essay

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"The best thing [Sethe] was, was her children. Whites might dirty her all right, but not her best thing, her beautiful, magical best thing -- the part of her that was clean" (250). She had been made to endure a lot which most slave women experienced during enslavement. They were brutally raped, used and beaten and often had to work as prostitutes. "I got close. I got close. To being a Saturday girl. I had already worked a stone mason's shop. A step to the slaughterhouse would have been a short one" (203-204).

Sethe's sense of abandonment was what gave her an imbalanced torn personality. She wanted a mother's love which she was denied and then she later did the same thing to her daughter and thus suffered immensely. In a way she was both Beloved and herself since she could feel Beloved's feelings of deprivation, abandonment and loss. When she killed Beloved, it was like an act of revenge. It was as if she was avenging all that her mother had made her feel when she left her behind or would leave her Nan while she worked in the fields. Sethe, as a child, was unable to comprehend why her mother was away from her or why she was hanged. But on psychological level, this miscomprehension or inability to comprehend led to resentment that welled up inside her so much so that she killed her own daughter. However it was impossible for her to forgive herself or to forget what she had done.

Sethe pleaded for forgiveness, counting, listing again and again her reasons [for fleeing Sweet Home without Beloved at her side]: that Beloved was more important, meant more to her than her own life. That she would trade places any day. Give up her life, every minute and hour of it, to take back just one of 'Beloved's tears. Did she know it hurt her when mosquitoes bit her baby? That to leave her on the ground to run into the big house drove her crazy? That before leaving Sweet Home Beloved slept every night on her chest or curled on her back? Beloved denied it. Sethe never came to her, never said a word to her, never smiled and worst of all never waved goodbye or even looked her way before running away from her. (241-42)

Sethe's sense of guilt is so profound that she actually imagines the return of Beloved. For many critics, Beloved was not a real presence. It is often asserted that Beloved was merely a figment of Sethe's imagination and since her sense of shame was very strong, she imagined the re-appearance of her lost daughter. She would once announce, "my girl come home. Now I can look at things again because she's here to see them too" (201). Sethe actually begs her daughter to come back so she can comfort her and make her understand why she did what she did: "You came right on back like a good girl, like a daughter which is what I wanted to be and would have been if my ma'am had been able to get out of the rice long enough before they hanged her and let me be one" (203).

It was with the 21-year-old ghost that Sethe wanted to apply her maternal instincts. She wanted to shower the girl with maternal love believing that this might heal her wounds. Sethe wants forgiveness but it is not forthcoming since Beloved is extremely angry and resentful for what her mother had done to her. In this way, Beloved's ghost is also a party of Sethe herself on psychological level. On one occasion when Beloved tries to choke her mother, we can see that as the ghost's act of revenge for what Sethe had done or it can be viewed as Sethe's intense desire to avenge her own loss and abandonment as ma'am left her behind. Sethe finally wins her forgiveness when the ghost leaves and she can convince herself that her life is important too. It is near the end that she finally realizes that she cannot hold on to the past for too long and thus lets the ghost leave.…[continue]

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