Exploring Personal Choices in Toni Morrison's Beloved
At the climax of her book Beloved, Toni Morrison uses strong imagery to examine the mind of a woman who is thinking of killing her own children. She writes,
"Because the truth was simple, not a long-drawn-out record of flowered shifts, tree cages, selfishness, ankle ropes and wells. Simple: she was squatting in the garden and when she saw them coming and recognized schoolteacher's hat, she heard wings. Little hummingbirds stuck their needle beaks right through her headcloth into her hair and beat their wings. And if she thought anything, it was No. Nono. Nonono. Simple. She just flew. Collected every bit of life she had made, all the parts of her that were precious and fine and beautiful, and carried, pushed, dragged them through the veil, out, away, over there where no one could hurt them. Over there. outside this place, where they would be safe. And the hummingbird wings beat on." (163)
A full analysis of the book, or even of this passage, would be more extensive than is justified by the constraints of this paper. To a large extent this book is about the victims of the system of slavery. However, Morisson uses this and other passages to comment on issues that are still present even after significant changes in social and economic systems. One statement Morisson is making here is that there is a dichotomy between what we should do to obey our personal spiritual laws and what we should do to exercise "common sense" or "be normal." Also that often neither of these is what we actually do nor what we want to do as a person trying to live life. She makes it implicitly clear in this sentence, as she does in other parts of the novel, dealing with other characters. It is valid to say that the book deals with the issue of different reasons for a person to act, and especially with the way that emotion and personal nature can outweigh abstract morality or common sense.
One example of a character who is succesful in avoiding the path of common sense is Sixo, one of the other slaves on the plantation that Sethe had run away from. He carries on relations with "the Thirty-Mile woman", a girl slave on another plantation. As her name implies, he has to travel thirty miles (during the night) to see her. One meeting-place he tries to use is an Indian holy-spot; the place's presence gives him permission to use it. In the end, he has had sex with her the night before he is killed by slave-hunters (226). Shortly before that time, he refused to speak English any more. At the end of the novel, Paul D tries to use Sixo's words as a way to describe what he wishes his relationship with Sethe would be (state to convey?): "She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It's good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind."
The story gives absolutely no hint as to how Beloved feels or why she does what she...