Swift unnavigable waters, swinging screaming baboons, sleeping snakes, red gums ready for their sweet white blood.... But it wasn't the jungle blacks brought with them to this place from the other place. It was the jungle whitefolks planted in them. And it grew. It spread....The screaming baboon lived under their own white skin; the red gums were their own. (Morrison, 198-199)
The strong bond between Sethe and her children reflects this ownership of the slaves by their masters. The jungle that was planted by the white people in the blacks through slavery is mirrored in the Sethe's violence. The murdering act of Sethe can thus be explained: she does not know herself and mistakes her own identity with the fate of her children. Unable to see herself as an independent person, Sethe clings to her role as a mother and becomes extremely possessive. She mistakes her own identity with her motherhood, and thus, in a way, reenacts the violence of the white masters against her. She feels she has no power over her own self because the white people had crossed all the boundaries and not only taken everything she possessed physically, but everything she had dreamed as well: '"Those white things have taken all I had or dreamed,' she said, 'and broke my heartstrings too. There is no bad luck in the world but whitefolks.'"(Morrison, 89) it is obvious that the "whitefolks" are "bad luck," that is, for the black slaves they were the instruments of destiny itself, trough the power have over their lives. Thus, when Sethe kills her infant daughter, she obviously acts, although out of love, as a white master would. As Malmgren remarks, Sethe's violent act against her own child is actually a perpetuation of the logic of slavery: "Sethe so identifies her Self with the well-being of her children that she denies their...
The white people are actually the ones who took their humanity by treating them as objects or animals.
The novel does however more than show the effects of slavery on the sense of identity of the African-Americans. Through Sethe's story, Morrison offers an example of the way in which the ghosts of past violence and rage can be made to disappear from the present. What Sethe gradually does is to free herself from Beloved, that is, to go through a second liberation. She is no longer a slave but she needs to be entirely free, that is she needs to claim herself as a person, as an identity: "Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another."(Morrison, 95) the novel ends with Paul D.'s attempt to convince Sethe that she herself is her best possession and not her children: "You your best thing, Sethe. You are."(Morrison, 273) Thus, Beloved is almost a lesson for regaining the sense of identity, even after such a cruel and unforgettable experience like slavery.
Morrison thus shows the way in which the master/slave bond affects the selfhood of the former slaves, to the point that it is replicated in Sethe's murder o her own daughter. At the same time however, the novel has an optimist note about it, and is meant as a lesson for the black people and the way in which they can cope with the trauma of slavery by recovering their own sense of identity, which brings them true independence: "What Beloved suggests is that while the suffering of the 'black and angry dead' is the inescapable psychological legacy of all African-Americans, they can rescue themselves from the trauma of that legacy by directly confronting it and uniting to loosen its fearsome hold."(Bowers, 75)
Bowers, Susan. "Beloved and the New Apocalypse." The Journal of Ethnic Studies. Vol. 18(1).1990: 59-77.
Iyasere, Solomon and Marla W. Iyasere. Understanding Toni Morrison's 'Beloved' and 'Sula': Selected Essays and Criticisms of the Works by the Nobel Prize-Winning Author. Troy: Whitston Publishing, 2000
Morrison, Toni. Beloved. New York: Knopf, 1987
Toni Morrison What meanings can be attributed to the literary accomplishments of American author Toni Morrison? How does Morrison use history to portray her stories and her characters? How did Morrison become known as one of the premier African-American authors in America? This paper delves into those issues and others relevant to the writing of Toni Morrison. What meanings are attributed to the works of Toni Morrison? Critic Marilyn Sanders Mobley -- in
Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Beloved (Morrison), based loosely on a real life experience of a Cincinnati area former slave, mirrors her own journey from her early life living in a segregated South to her moving to a more racially friendly Lorain, Ohio (Reinhardt). Her life in Lorain was free of many of the prejudices that would have been present if she had remained in the South but she
Clearly, color, specifically the color red, plays a significant symbolic role in developing these aforementioned central themes. At the most basic level, in a book that is primarily about slavery, color is a powerful theme as the colors of black and white divide society and is the entire reasoning for the conflicts of slavery. Even after emancipation, the colors of black and white continue to create conflict, as even Sethe
Beloved by Toni Morrison is a haunting, darkly beautiful and intensely moving novel that depicts the profound traumatic reality of slavery and its repercussions on one woman's life, her mental stability and psychological well-being, her ideas of and abilities in motherhood, her entire sense of self, even her basic humanity. Beloved tells the story of an escaped slave woman who, when faced with capture, slipped into a state of psychosis
There many instances in the book to remind the reader of the non-human ways those slaves were treated. There is a passage in which a slave does not have any name other than the name that was written on the bill of sale when she was purchased. When finally asked what she calls herself her answer is chilling: "Nothing.... I don't call myself nothing" (142) (Malmgren, 1995). The book belies the
Toni Morrison's Beloved Through the exquisitely penned prose and evocative storytelling weaved within her novel Beloved, author Toni Morrison manages to depict the spiritual damage inflicted on African-Americans throughout the darkest period in our nation's history. Rather than confine her penetrating perceptive abilities as a writer to the external conditions of slavery, Morrison delves deeply into personal experience and cultural heritage to expose the insidious internal consequences of human bondage