Even after she acknowledges Beloved's identity, Sethe shows herself to be still enslaved by the past, because she quickly succumbs to Beloved's demands and allows herself to be consumed by Beloved. Only when Sethe learns to confront the past head-on, to assert herself in its presence, can she extricate herself from its oppressive power and begin
Sethe divulged to Paul D the catastrophic events that caused her to run away from Sweet Home, and then she surrendered her sons and daughter to a woman in a wagon because she was worried about the family’s future under the Schoolteacher’s reign. Her description of the assault was straight forward. She told Paul D and very succinctly the roughness and cruelty of those white people especially the two white boys who beat her while she was pregnant with Denver injuring her so badly that her back skin had been dead for years. She refers to the situation as
Through character development, the story also portrays the theme of escaping the past. Sethe’s actions are influenced heavily by her dead child, Beloved. When the “human” form of Beloved arrives while sleeping
Sethe says she believes she won't even have to explain her motives for killing her (a love so great she can't let her be taken into a life of slavery). "I don't have to remember nothing," Sethe tells herself on page 183. "I don't even have to explain. She understands it all." Sethe believes the one true way she will find restitution and understanding with Beloved, is by knowing the mark she has left on her daughter. "I only need to know one thing. How bad is the scar?" Sethe feels that by knowing the scar, by touching the "memory of a smile under her chin," she can feel her daughter's pain and connect with her.
According to dictionary.com, feminism is the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men. Throughout history and even in present time, women have been subject to unequal treatment by their male counterparts. For example, in the biblical story of Adam and Eve, Eve
Sethe is not simply attempting to kill her children just for the sake of doing it; she sees no other option for the betterment of their lives. Sethe is attempting to take the lives of her children out of pure love and the opportunity to not drag them through a life of suffering.
When Sethe first meets Beloved, she welcomes her with a suspiciously large magnitude. Furthermore, it is clear that Sethe never revealed her past experiences to Denver, yet the moment Beloved asks about her lost earrings, it was “the first time she had heard anything about her(Sethe’s) mother’s mother”(61). This proves that Beloved, and not anyone else, is pulling Sethe to the past, by making her recollect of her days as a slave. In addition,“it is clear why she holds on to you(Sethe), but I just can’t see why you holding on to her,” Paul mentioned(67). This shows how Paul realizes that Sethe has taken in Beloved without much reasoning, and when Beloved hums a song that Sethe happened to make up, Sethe fully but blindly embraces Beloved as family. In fact, she “had gone to bed smiling,” anxious to “unravel the proof for the conclusion she had already leapt to”(181). This shows how consumed by Beloved she is.
Destruction of identity, another theme of the novel, relates to the violent scenes. In the second part of Beloved, Sethe takes a stand and expresses her feeling on the violent acts being performed on her. “Nobody will ever get my milk no more except my own children. I never had to give it to nobody else—and the one time I did it was took from me—they held me down and took it. Milk that belonged to my baby” (Morrison 200). Sethe finally comes to terms with her past and vows to never let such a horrendous act happen to her again. Beloved’s reincarnation occurs because Sethe needs to face her dark past head on and free herself from living in shame. It took time, but, Sethe eventually overcomes the odds and begins to live freely and peacefully in her house.
Sethe expresses content knowing that the murder prevented their capture by schoolteacher. Sethe is resolute in her belief that her act of mercy killing worked. As she tells Paul D, it kept them all away from schoolteacher and away from Sweet Home. When Paul D protests, Sethe explains: "It ain't my job to know what's worse. It's my job to know what is and to keep them away from what I know is terrible. I did that" (Beloved p.202)
These disturbing pasts rear their ugly heads when in her panic at the past catching up with her, Sethe kills her eldest child and attempts to do the same with the other three. She is unable to escape the past she ran from through mere physical distance. “‘I stopped him,’ she said, staring at the place where the fence used to be, ‘I took my babies and put them where they’d be safe’” (Morrison 164). Sethe is talking about murdering her children to put them beyond the reach of slavery. As Paul D puts it a few lines later, “This here Sethe talked about safety with a handsaw” (Morrison 164). Sethe describes a feeling of “hummingbirds” pecking at her head and then a calm understanding of what to do to put her children forever out of reach of the horrors of her dark past, which she still carries around in her head (Morrison 163, 262). These were so awful that the only escape she can imagine is permanent--death. This past haunts her in much the same way Beloved haunts her
Sethe understands that her history, filled with the pain of slavery, grief over losing her children, and guilt over Beloved's death, and tries to hide from all the anguish. However, she admits that the past seems to "always be there waiting," thereby emphasizing the idea that past horrors of life continue to haunt forever. It appears as though the power of her experience in slavery influences her so greatly that the memory triggers great pain, causing the horrifying incidents to "happen again." Even though Sethe understands that she cannot ever fully escape her history as it will come back to trouble her, she still tries to avoid them and thus attempts to shield her daughter from the horrors of history: "As for Denver, the job Sethe had of keeping her from the past that was still waiting for her was all that mattered" (45). It seems as though Sethe tries to deny the fact that history does not simply disappear. She still tries to protect Denver "from the past" even though history "waits," prepared to cause trouble and inflict the pain Sethe tries to repress. It appears as though Sethe continuously tries to fight against her memories and ignore her past in part one. For example, after she wakes, she begins "Working dough. Working, working dough. Nothing better than that to start the day's
Sethe lives in the shadow of her act of infanticide throughout the entire length of the book. This is because its legacy pervades itself throughout the entire novel, showing events leading up, and ways the future has been affected. The novel begins as such: “124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom. (Page 1)” This baby refers to Beloved, who became a ghostly presence in Sethe’s house and continuously terrorizes the house
In Beloved, Morrison discusses the power that the past can hold over a person. Sethe murdered her daughter and was stopped before she had the chance to murder her other children. However, the murders did not occur out of malicious intent. After escaping her owner, Sethe is terrified that someone will catch her and her children and force them into slavery. She feels that the worst thing in the world is
Sethe learned the value of motherhood from an early age. Not wanting the children of the white men that raped her, Sethe?s mother, Ma?am (as she is called in the book), threw all the unwanted children away. But, Sethe?s father was a black man whom Ma?am loved, and so she kept Sethe. Recalling the story, Sethe thinks back on what Nan (the woman who knew Sethe?s mother and raised Sethe, herself) said, ?She threw them all away but you. The one from the crew she threw away on the island. The others from more whites she also threw away. Without names, she threw them. You she gave the name of the black man? (Morrison, 62). Thus having an identity because of her mother, ?Sethe learns Ma?am?s history and grounds her personality in motherly-love? (Kubitcheck 123). Kubitcheck also says, ?mother-love offers the strongest defense against slavery. When Nan tells Sethe that her Ma?am chose to conceive and bear her, Sethe acquires the base on which to build feelings of self-worth? (135). She could also identify with her mother by the mark branded below Ma?am?s
Sethe always knew that her children were the only good and pure part of who she is and she knew that she had to be the master of her children's fate, there by taking on the motherly and fatherly role. According to Sethe, “What he know about it” (239). This means that Sethe feels that Paul D does not know anything about love or about willingly giving things up. This demonstrates the strengths that Sethe have over Paul D even though she is a woman. Another example of Sethe “In a mans world” is when Baby Suggs tries to compare the difference between a