Toni Morrison’s, Beloved, is a complex narrative about the love between mothers and daughters, and the agony of guilt. “ It is the ultimate gesture of a loving mother. It is the outrageous claim of a slave.” These are the words, of Toni Morrison, used to describe the actions of Sethe, the central character in the novel. She, a former slave, chooses to kill her baby girl rather then let her live a life in slavery. In preventing her from the physical and emotional horrors of slavery, Sethe has put herself in to a realm of physical and emotional pain: guilt. And in understanding her guilt we can start to conceive her motivations for killing her third nameless child.
A justified institution as the 19th century emerged; the infamous institution of slavery grew rapidly and produced some surprising controversy and rash justification. Proslavery, Southern whites used social, political, and economical justification in their arguments defining the institution as a source of positive good, a legal definition, and as an economic stabilizer. The proslavery supporters often used moral and biblical rationalization through a religious foundation in Christianity and supported philosophic ideals in Manifest Destiny to vindicated slavery as a profitable investment. Southerners used popular sovereignty to justify their slavery practices, ultimately slavery is supported through popular sovereignty since it is the people’s will to enslave black, or at least the Southerner’s will. Another social aspect of rationalization is the slavery institution is derived from the Southern argument, which contrasted the happy lives of their slaves to the overworked and exhausted Northern black wageworkers. In the South, benefits; whereas in the North black were caged in dank and dark factories and were released after their usefulness had served its purpose. Why work in the North when there are safe, comfortable plantations to work on in the South?
Did Beloved’s death come out of love or selfish pride? In preventing her child from going into slavery, Sethe, too, protected herself; she prevented herself from re-entering captivity. In examining Sethe’s character we can see that her motivations derive from her deep love towards her children, and from the lack of love for herself. Sethe’s children are her only good quality. Her children are a part of her and in killing one she kills a part of herself. What hinders over Sethe is her refusal to accept responsibility for her baby’s death. Does she do this because she is selfish or because it need not be justified? Sethe’s love is clearly displayed by sparing her daughter from a horrific life; yet, Sethe refuses to acknowledge that her show of compassion is also murder.
I believe that Beloved was a vividly irregular family saga that is set in the mid-1880's in Ohio. By that time, slavery had been diminished by the Civil War, but the horrors of slavery lived within the memories of those that were subjected to it. After...