Maternal Bond in Toni Morrison's Beloved
The maternal bond between mother and kin is valued and important in all cultures. Mothers and children are linked together and joined: physically, by womb and breast; and emotionally, by a sense of self and possession. Once that bond is established, a mother will do anything for her child. In the novel Beloved, the author, Toni Morrison, describes a woman, Sethe, who's bond is so strong she goes to great lengths to keep her children safe and protected from the evil that she knows. She gave them the gift of life, then, adding to that, the joy of freedom. Determined to shield them from the hell of slavery, she took drastic measures to keep them from that life. But, in doing so, the bond that was her strength became her weakness, destroying the only thing she loved.
Slaves, in the United States, were denied everything -- all forms of identifying with the human race. They were denied their freedom of life: the very right to appreciate and enjoy the beauty of nature in the world, it not being theirs to enjoy. Additionally, they were denied the very way in which all humans identify themselves -- through the influence of others. They were disallowed community and harmony among their peoples. Children were taken from their mothers, and brothers from their sisters. Dr. Kubitcheck says, ?Another crucial part of identity and culture, language, also has been lost to the slaves? (126). Individual slaves were often placed on plantations with other slaves from different parts of Africa, speaking completely different languages, and thus having no way of communication between them. ?Symbolically,? Kubitcheck says, ?slavery . . . obliterated African identity? (126). Because Sethe knew her mother and was able, thanks to the ownership of a rare, kind white man, to ?marry? her husband, Halle (also under the same master), and keep her children, she had a rare and sacred thing among the African community of slaves -- a family. Knowing the value of this rarity, Sethe was extremely attached to her children, and refused to lose them, lest she lose herself. The link between mother and child, then, is an important underlying theme throughout Beloved, and one with which Sethe became obsessed.
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...