Symbolism in Tony Morrison's Novel Beloved

Categories: Beloved

In Beloved, many aspects of nature are woven into experiences the characters have endured, as well as into the characters themselves. These themes and motifs within nature seem to play quite a significant role in the development of the story and characters. Breaking Down these themes and motifs will help to see why they were placed into the story and what importance they actually serve. In Beloved, Toni Morrison utilizes motifs within nature, such as water and trees to represent experiences in Sethe's past and present life.

Water is a recurring theme in manytAfricantAmerican literature's. It's alwaystbeen a site for memory and history. In Beloved it represents life, death and all of the inbetween. Though water does play other major roles within the story, focussing on the way in which water relates to Sethe, will allow for more insight to her character. For Sethe as a character mostly water represents life, and all the ways it is presented within her life.

Get quality help now
checked Verified writer

Proficient in: Beloved

star star star star 4.7 (657)

“ Really polite, and a great writer! Task done as described and better, responded to all my questions promptly too! ”

avatar avatar avatar
+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

During Sethe's escape from Sweet Home Plantation, she is confronted with imminent dangers by the Ohio River which is said to be "infected by the Klan". Crossing this river safely, implies that Sethe will be closer to freedom. This encounter symbolises life for Sethe, because it is one step closer to her freedom which in return is her life. She would rather be dead than not be free. "She never made the outhouse. Right in front of its door she had to lift her skirts, and the water she voided was endless.

Get to Know The Price Estimate For Your Paper
Number of pages
Email Invalid email

By clicking “Check Writers’ Offers”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We’ll occasionally send you promo and account related email

"You must agree to out terms of services and privacy policy"
Write my paper

You won’t be charged yet!

Like a horse, she thought, but as it went on and on, she thought, No, more like flooding the boat when Denver was born" This happened right after Beloved emerged from the woods, where she too also came out of a body of water, as a way "into life". This appearance of one of her past children lead her body to emulate a function which is normal when having a child, except this time there is no child inside of her. Sethe's body gave way to mass amounts of water in a way embodying Beloved's life coming out of here, This whole seen is very symbolic, the sight of one of her children being reborn convided Sethe's body that it needed to replicate what happens when one gives birth, breaking water. This scene does not only represents life and birth literally, but includes the motif of water furthering its relation of life into Sethe. These examples are of many which show the connect of water into Sethe's character and development.

Trees as well play a notable role in the story, but each character has a different relationship to each of these motifs. One character might relate to one in a very positive way, while another character not so much. As for trees, this is very true. For many in Beloved trees represent a fairly positive and comforting thing for them, but not for Sethe. In Beloved Sethe is described to have a scar on her back which resembles that of a chokecherry tree. This is explained within the first three chapters of the book, and this is the first we see of trees in relation to the. Sethe's "tree" is a sign of her past, and not a good one. She associates that scar with much of her past life and memories which I believe she may like to offer. It reminds her of her past as a slave and all she endured during those times.

These motifs which play major roles in Sethe's life and development as a character are relayed to the reader in a way so they don't understand all of what is happening right away, but as the context widen they can clearly see what is happening. In sethe's case we do to find out what happened to her until later on in the book. This allows for the reader to implement tie down imagination into the story, and lets them to create their own story for the characters. All in all these motifs played a significant role not only in life, but the story as a whole

Updated: Feb 22, 2024
Cite this page

Symbolism in Tony Morrison's Novel Beloved. (2024, Feb 25). Retrieved from

Live chat  with support 24/7

👋 Hi! I’m your smart assistant Amy!

Don’t know where to start? Type your requirements and I’ll connect you to an academic expert within 3 minutes.

get help with your assignment