Beloved by Toni Morrison

Sethe has a very complicated relationship with herself. Sethe is the character that is not able to forget the trauma of the times when she was a slave and fearing that her children might not fall into the same fate, prefers to even kill them. The central theme is that Sethe is in search of her own identity and Morrison also tries to show the cruelty and disturbing consequences of slavery that existed even after they were not slaves. The ex-slaves also feel inferior to the white people and when Denver walks out of her home to find a job and finally she finds her identity.

Sethe is lacking this throughout and keeps herself isolated and only plays the role of a mother. ‘Those white things have taken all I had dreamed’, she said, ‘and broke my heartstrings too. There is no bad luck in the world but white folks. ’ (Beloved, Chapter 9, Page 89) Sethe kills her baby girl so that she is not physically, spiritually or emotionally oppressed by the masters or whites of that time.

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Sethe suffers the guilt of her this particular act and when the first time ghost of Beloved comes in her house she gets extremely terrified and wants it to go away at any cost.

But the second time, Sethe allows Beloved’s ghost to destroy her house and digests her anger at even the cost of her relationships just because she thinks that this way she can calm down her daughter’s ghost. Beloved seems to be interested in Sethe and she listens to her and this satisfies Sethe too.

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Sethe has faced the dark and gloomy days of slavery and the whole life she tries to protect her children from getting into that life. Sethe’s unique interactions with Beloved, her incarnated daughter reveals a completely different picture. She struggles with herself and her emotions and most of the time she is lonely.

She trusts very few people and has cut herself socially, especially from the black people. She identifies herself as a different person in different stages of her life. Sethe’s relationship with Beloved takes a different shape and helps her recover from the physical and mental trauma of slavery. The use of symbolism and allusions refer only to the confused and suffered state of mind of Sethe. Beloved has many grievances and thinks that her mother abandoned her whereas Sethe is unable to explain her daughter why it was better to die that to live in such traumatic situations.

At these stages Sethe seems to be helpless and becomes more and more self-centered. She feels sometimes that she had no right to kill her daughter but the love and respect she had for her children forced her to do so. Her dreams for her children and their future were definitely not to live like slaves and she did what the moment forced her mind to do. Her motherly emotions are different from a general mother and she is seen very much possessive about her children too. She says, “[A]nybody 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. And though she and others lived through and got over it, she could never let it happen to her own. The best things she was, was her children. Whites might dirty her al, right, but not her best thing, her beautiful, magical best thing – the part of her that was clean. ” (Beloved, Chapter 26, Page 251) The novel in fact is Sethe’s memories in a shattered way and one has to collect them and understand and this makes the identification of relationships of Sethe with her two daughter all the more difficult.

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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Beloved by Toni Morrison. (2016, Dec 24). Retrieved from

Beloved by Toni Morrison essay
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