Beloved & Story
Beloved is a soul-stirring novel with vivid imagery, historical background and complex characters. The dark and grey, tones of slavery is very strongly captured in detail by characters going through the horrific experiences of slavery. The brutal images of slavery tarnishes their lives with “marks”(Beloved), scars, wounds, shackles, and memories with heavy burden of the past , fragmented self in the present and very foggy view of the future. The precious self, which is the birthright of every human being is stained, fragmented and diminished by the painful experiences of slavery.
The body undergoes innumerable hardship, torture and agony; and the mind is made crippled, dependant and weak with exhaustion and hostility. The scars of slavery reduce the human beings to ashes, where they are drained of any hope and light. The spirit is submerged in the burden of life, and everyday existence for survival.
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Some of the strong ideas around which the novel revolves are: love (mother’s possessive love), family, self-possessiveness, burden of the past, and desire for ownership. These themes unite the events and the characters within the story.
These are the themes that also reflect that human self is higher than the mortal bruises inflicted on the body by the painful experiences of slavery. The power of mother’s love is the strong force which controls many happenings within the story. The life of the protagonist Sethe centers on the protection of her children from the horrors of the slavery. She lived a terrible life, where there was no ray of light and still managed to secure her freedom in the difficult days of pregnancy. How she managed to do it lies in her inner strength as a mother, for the protection of her children .
Her mother love is the strong chord which propels her actions to send away her older children for safety and protection to Baby Suggs. In the last and difficult stages of pregnancy, when even walking is painful, she decides to run away from Sweet Home with the help from a white girl Amy. She gives birth to her 4th child on the run and still finds strength to carry on until she reaches the safety of home, where Baby Suggs lives with her other children. The whole length of the novel is weaved with instances that reinforce the strong desire for the family.
The vision of united family under one roof is something held as aspiration for Sethe ( the main character), Baby Sugg ( the paternal grandmother), Denver(the living daughter), Paul D(another slave from Sweet Home) and Beloved( the ghost incarnate). The “House 124” is the symbolic of the shelter of home, which brings all the characters under this one roof, where all the interaction and complexities arise. This is where the past, present and future are face to face, in the race for dominance and survival. This is where the mystery of the numbers is revealed.
The critical role which Beloved, the 3rd child, dead as well as living, plays is unfathomable. She creates the mysterious haunted atmosphere within the walls of “House 124”. Beloved fills the missing number 3, and remains as the unseen force calling the shots through her possessive love and desire for revenge. She represents the invisible force of past, which controls the actions of the present. The inhabitants of “House 124” are locked in love, possessive love which directs their thoughts and actions beyond control.
The world outside does not attract them; they want to be in the security of their house, which represents their freedom and safety. The ownership of “House 124” is her first attempt to live a normal life without the shackles of slavery. Ownership is complex, when the experiences are so burdened by the cruelties of the past. The stamp of ownership reduced the humans living within the system to indifference. The body suffers, the mind is shattered with pain and anguish, and the spirit is reduced to emptiness.
In this desperation, humans can act out of love in unpredictable ways to escape from the darkness and grimness of the situation. This is what Sethe did when she killed her one year-old daughter because she did not want her to live the life which she was living. The mark on Sethe’s mother was a mark of possession, the branding of a slave. The human’s who were owned as slaves were treated worse than animals. For the first time, Paul D reveals his 18-year struggle, the endless running and hiding. To him, slavery is worse than being an animal: “Mister [the rooster] was allowed to be and stay where he was.
But I wasn’t. ” We learn of the cruelty of the schoolteacher’s two nephews, who sucked on Sethe’s milk as if she were an animal. The pain of watching his wife abused by the owners school teacher and his nephews, drove Sethe’s husband Halle mad. (Beloved). The strong desire for ownership can also be seen, later on in Sethe, Paul D, Beloved and Denver, when they are living in “House 124”. Their relationship is also a struggle in the claim of ownership and struggle to find that strength to make the claim.
The biggest hurdle in their claim for love and ownership is the heavy burden of the past which they carry as haunted voices and dark clouds. The powerful game of love and seduction makes this struggle for power more complicated. The significant role of the heart wounded, locked away and bleeding reinforces the need for love and ownership. The exposed breast as the source of milk, a sign of nurturance indicates the power of protection and possession. Sethe controls the chief events within her household; she is the nurturer as well as the killer.
Her love is possessive and strong. She has survived and wishes to hold on to the chords of the future. Sethe’s possessive love is challenged by Beloved, the ghost of the dead baby overshadows the life of people living at “House 124”when she reveals herself as a woman, 19 or 20 years of age, coming out of the marsh fully dressed. She is tired and thirsty, but her shoes are new and her skin is flawless except for three scratches on her forehead. It takes her more than two days to drag herself to 124 With a harsh voice, she pronounces that her name is Beloved.
Beloved brings back many memories, especially those regarding the horrors of slavery (Beloved). The existing contrasts reveal her out of world characteristics. Much of the imagery in Beloved is dedicated to the picture of the cellars of a slave ship, with implications that this is the place Beloved was before she was born. The description is one of a womb, not of a cramped slave ship. The past has been forgotten, and there is a strong feeling of being trapped in the darkness (Beloved). Beloved is a dangerous mix of human traits and ghostly characteristics. Though hungry for love, she can smother love with revenge.
She is a schemer and a parasite, which arrives in the “House 124” to fulfill her unfinished desires and urges. She is only centered on herself, which intensifies her fears and terrors. The horror of the obscurity, the pangs of hunger and the fear of death immobilizes the mind and the body. The self, the spirit within is gradually overpowered by the agony of physical torture. The memories haunt the living as well as the ghost, as a shadow of all the experiences. The imagery of loudness and sound also plays a significant role to describe that “House 124 was spiteful” (Beloved).
Here the spite is alive – it is, as Stamp Paid realizes, the roar of “people of the broken necks, of fire-cooked blood and black girls who had lost their ribbons” (Beloved). What roars is the dead, the injustice dealt to more than sixty million, all alive in Beloved. The loudness betrays a sinister part of Beloved which has not yet surfaced. The loudness is the cry, the despair and the frustrations of life’s experienced by people in shackles and chains, with no freedom to live, think or feel. It is self crying to be saved from this mortal combat of pain and anguish.
The deep imprint of slavery is once again brought into play when Paul D reminisces about “Sweet Home” (Beloved) Even death does not deter the human soul and human self from the desire for freedom. Though the mortal bruises hurt the body and mind, they do not completely destroy the sanctuary of the self, however fragmented and withered. This light within is what keeps humans, such as Sethe and Sixo, to keep going and to find the way to freedom, either through escape or death. The helplessness experienced as a victim of slavery tarnishes the self deeply, leaving a person dirty and unclean from within.
“That anybody white could take your whole self for anything that came to mind. Not just work, kill or maim you, but dirty you. Dirty you so bad you couldn’t like yourself anymore. Dirty you so bad you forgot who you were and couldn’t think it up… The best thing was, was her [Sethe’s] children. Whites might dirty her all right, but not her best thing”(Beloved). The inner strength of Sethe is very strongly portrayed in the lines above, showing she is willing to go to any length to protect her children and save them from getting dirty.
The possessiveness and the protective aspect of maternity are very powerfully expressed in this comment. Mother love is the protector and the nurturer, but also a killer. “Slavery is not just an institution; it is a philosophy and mindset which is far-reaching in its consequences” (ROTHSTEIN The horrific memories of the past hold a powerful influence on the present life of Sethe and Denver. The re-emergence of Beloved on the scene as half human and half ghost, half child and half adult adds complexity beyond comprehension.
All the powerful feminine emotions play a critical role in adding drama and despair. The entanglement of the relationships between Denver and Beloved, though sisters, exposes the deep jealousy and bitterness. The dependence and immaturity, is characterized by their selfishness and insecurity. The overcast clouds of wounds, scars and shackles, are too heavy a burden to carry from one life to another. The past is a burden, the present is a struggle and future is so foggy that the road to freedom seems lost.
The insatiable desire of the fragmented self to rise in spirit to face the world is the beautiful message hidden in the heaps of ashes of the past. The message is to bury the past, loosen the shackles of the present bindings and look to future with the hope and courage. Works Cited ROTHSTEIN , MERVYN. “Toni Morrison, In Her New Novel, Defends Women. “Books. August 26, 1987, . The New York Times Company. 1 Mar 2007 <www. nytimes. com/books/98/01/11/home/14013. html>. ( ROTHSTEIN ) “Beloved. ” Beloved. 1998-2007. Homework Online Inc. 1 Mar 2007 <www. homework online. com/beloved/index. asp>. (Beloved)