Slavery Experience in Morrison's Beloved Essay

Total Length: 2197 words ( 7 double-spaced pages)

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Sethe does not see death as such an opposing alternative compared to the life she remembers. Beloved, seen as the ghost-daughter, is returning back to her mother but she is doing so angry. She is angry for the same reasons as Sethe -- she missed out on the opportunity to be a daughter. Sethe can now take care of Beloved like she was supposed to before. Sethe sees her mother as she never did before and begins to accept her circumstance.

Beloved's identity symbolizes the ghost-child and ghost-mother of Sethe and others who passed before her. Deborah Horvitz believes the ghost represents both the dead child and the dead mother. She writes the ghost-child prompts Sethe to "remember her own mother because, in fact, the murdered daughter and the slave mother are a conflated or combined identity" (Horvitz). From this perspective, we can understand the importance of the mother/daughter relationship. Sethe's mother experienced the Middle Passage and "relates that ordeal through a coded message from the ship revealing that she too is a Beloved who, like Sethe, has been cruelly separated from her own mother" (Horvitz). Having the ghost represent both absent characters completes a cycle of "mother-daughter loss, perceived abandonment, betrayal, and recovery (Horvtiz)" in the novel.

Self-identity and freedom are complicated issues in the novel. They are even more difficult to attain for the slave. Freedom is a form of maternity in the novel. Baby Suggs realizes the fullness of her self when she is free. Sethe, too, experiences more self-awareness when she is free. She claims the selfishness she feels is right and this feeling allows her to identify with all aspects of life, including her passions and responsibilities. She experiences beauty and she experiences the tug of being a woman and a mother. Before she can reach this point, Beloved pushes her to extremes. Sethe attempts to appease Beloved, for any mistakes in the past. Whether the ghost is her mother of her daughter, Sethe does what she can to please her. She almost starves Denver and herself because she gives all the food to Beloved.
For some time, Beloved is controlling Sethe and this situation must be reversed for healing and self-realization to occur. Through time, Sethe learns to let go of the past, telling Beloved, "You got to learn more sense than that" (130). Sethe learns to let go and only then is she able to confront the notion that she is enough and she can be her own good thing.

Beloved is a love story of sorts. Sethe must learn to accept herself despite her past and while the conclusion of the novel is ambiguous, the final scene supports the notion that Sethe is finally able to recognize her sense of self. Morrison illustrates how self-identity is difficult to attain through a slave experience. Sethe symbolizes every slave whose life was impacted by ownership. Her struggles as a mother are extremely difficult because she is not allowed true freedom to become a mother. Her life is one spent in fear of separation every waking moment. Her mother played an integral role in her life, planting fears and injustices in Sethe's mind that would haunt her for most of her life. Motherhood then becomes a challenge that Sethe cannot bear. Saving a child from slavery appears to be a good thing but murder does not. Beloved returns to force Sethe to come to terms with the difficulties of her past. Only through reconciliation, will she experience a sense of self she seeks. Beloved as ghost-mother.and ghost-daughter help Sethe realize her full potential. She also realizes that everything she ever needed to feel complete was already within her.

Works Cited

Holden-Kirwan, Jennifer L. "Looking Into the Self That is No Self: An Examination of Subjectivity in 'Beloved.'" African-American Review. 32.3. 1998. Literature Resource Center. Gale. 2 Dec. 2009 http://go.galegroup.com

Horvitz, Deborah. "Nameless Ghosts: Possession and Dispossession in Beloved." Studies in American Fiction. 17.2. 989. 1995. Literature Resource Center. Gale. 2 Dec. 2009. http://go.galegroup.com

Jesser, Nancy. "Violence, Home, and Community in Toni Morrison's 'Beloved.'" African-American Review. 33.2. 1999.….....

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