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Murder Or Mercy? Essay

1254 words - 6 pages

‘“Was it hard? I hope she didn't die hard.’ Sethe shook her head. 'Soft as cream. Being alive was the hard part’” (Morrison 8). Paul D questions the absence of Baby Suggs as he and Sethe sit on the front porch of 124. In the early pages of Toni Morrison’s book, Beloved, the theme of mercy is immediately present and stressed. The characters of Beloved live with the traumatic effects of living through slavery, and the value of life terrorizes their subconscious. The epicenter of Morrison’s book is Sethe killing her daughter out of love and mercy. Mercy is a powerful motive that drives human instinct, especially that of a mother’s psyche. Exploring this concept, Sethe’s actions were extreme, but not unique. They were actually explainable and even defendable.
‘“I ain’t got no friends take a handsaw to their own children’” (Morrison 221). Sethe is not the first or last mother to murder her own child. Famously, a woman named Andrea Yates was also found guilty of a horrific spree of infanticide against her five children. Killing them in the family bathtub, Yates proceeded to drown her son two-year-old son Luke, three-year-old son Paul, and five-year-old son John, her six month old daughter Mary, and seven-year-old son Noah (Picard). Although the outcome was the same, compared to Yates, Sethe’s dealings were not nearly as torturous and disturbed. The motives of both women were completely different. Yates’s actions were psychologically based and derived from depression and insanity while love and fear drove Sethe’s actions. It is hard to explain what went on in the mind of Yates, but it can easily be deduced that mercy underlined Seth’s unorthodox act of love. Both women went to jail and had to live with their regrettable actions. In the comparison of these two stories, the question, murder or mercy is deep within the crime. Yates committed murder and Sethe preformed an act of mercy. Faced with the choice of slavery or the afterlife, Sethe chose the latter for her baby.
Mental disorders are a strong proposition to why mothers commit filicide. A study at Fulton State Hospital in Missouri revealed eight women who committed filicide between 1975 and 1979 were given a psychiatric examination where doctors determined all eight patients had a major psychiatric disorder at the time of the crime (Dobson). There are countless links between filicide and forms of depression, however, all cases are heavily dependent on the individualism of the patient under examination. Morrison does not describe Sethe as having a mental disorder. Referring to Yates’s case, Yates meets the criteria of lacking mental stability, but Sethe’s conditions were different. In comparison with the mothers who killed their children without justifiable reason because they were unstable, Sethe appeared to have intent in her actions. Her thinking was altruistic because she knew she was going to go to jail, but was willing to make that sacrifice for the good of her baby’s...

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