A Mother’s Timeless Dilemma In "Beloved" By Toni Morrison

1731 words - 7 pages

Women throughout time have been forced to cope with the challenges of motherhood along with society’s expectations as to what a mother’s relationship should be with her child. Novelist, Agatha Christie said of the relationship between mother and child, “A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.” In Beloved, Toni Morrison examines the same idea; ultimately showing that the mother’s willingness to protect her child at all costs often endangers the mother herself. Beloved is set in the late 1800’s but Sethe’s experiences as a mother ring true with the experiences of mothers throughout time because the act of being a mother is timeless. As a child Sethe was separated from her mother both physically and mentally because of slavery, so when she has her own children she is determined to keep her family together. In her attempt to free herself and her children from slavery Sethe finds herself separated from her daughter, Beloved as a result of Beloved’s death. When Beloved returns, Sethe’s guilt causes her to overcompensate for their lost time. Her attempts to make up for this lost time with Beloved lead her to become too dependent on her children’s happiness and to abandon any of her own pursuits in favor of ensuring that her children are content. She gives her children everything she has, but is eventually sucked dry with nothing left to give. This struggle is similar to the struggle of modern women who must leave their children while they work then try to make up for the lost time when they are home. From the time they are girls women are led to believe that more important than their happiness, is their responsibility to ensure the happiness of everyone around them, especially their children. Paradoxically, as women take on more responsibilities without first taking the time to care for themselves, it becomes impossible for them to care for everything and everyone else. Morrison writes Beloved as a modern woman warning other women that every once in a while a mother must take some time for herself in order to ensure that as Sethe says, “she [has] milk enough for all” (118).
In Beloved, Morrison shows the forced separation of mother and child through Sethe’s relationship with her own mother and her relationship with her daughter, Beloved. Sethe’s own mother was unable to care for her because she was forced to go to work in the fields everyday like so many modern women must to go to their jobs. When any mother and child are separated it goes against the natural order of life and leaves both feeling as if they are missing something. Sethe creates such an unnatural separation when she kills her daughter to protect her from the evils of slavery. Sethe’s bond with Beloved is evident when she explains to Denver that Beloved’s ghost has so much power over them because of how beloved her dead daughter is to her. A powerful bond is...

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