Toni Morrison’s novel, Beloved, is a “haunting stray of a mother’s love that frames a series of irrelated love stories by multiple narrators” (Bell 61). The main character Sethe is a mother who fails to realize her children’s needs. She attempts to protect her children from the community amongst many other dangers such as slavery and love, however ultimately isolating them. Sethe’s character as well as actions confirms the “struggle and psychological trauma of slavery” (Napierkowski 35) from which she suffers. Shapes of almonds and depth “like two wells,”(9) Sethe’s eyes are “some sign to warn folks of what that emptiness held” (9). Sethe has yet to confront the absence of her mother, which reflects the idea that “one of the cruelest effects of slavery is how it severs bonds of love, particularly those between mother and child” (Napierkowski 34). Sethe hinders from the effects of slavery, ruining her relationships to come and future. Conclusively the characterization of Sethe, Beloved, and Denver acknowledges the complicated dynamics of mother daughter relationships amongst themselves, while revealing Sethe’s inability to establish a solid sense of identity.
Sethe is characterized as a noble woman. She thinks highly of herself and the community shuns her because of it. Sethe steals food from the restaurant instead of waiting in line with her community. She considers herself to be above them. Though she walks with her nose in the air, she is a mother who ironically lets ghosts of her past haunt her present. Isolating herself from her past, Sethe’s “goals are to escape memories of the past and protect the one child she has left” (Napierkowski 32). As a slave Sethe faces many hardships at Sweet Home, a place where she is not allowed an identity and is “forced to deny herself as a wife and a mother” (Perkins 43). This contributes to Sethe’s downfall, leading her to succeed at murdering her own child.
Once escaping Sweet Home, Sethe births her daughter Denver on a river bank, goes to jail, and more. She finally arrives in Ohio at 124 Bluestone, a home that is later haunted by her deceased daughter. Still devoting all of her efforts to her children, Sethe attempts to save them from the physical, emotional, and spiritual trauma slavery causes by attempting to murder them. All of Sethe’s motives are out of love, however, “for a used-to-be slave woman to love anything that much was dangerous” (45). Her love indirectly pushes her children into the world versus saving them from it. Her sons Buglar and Howard abandon the haunted house in hopes of escaping their past and the ghost. Because Sethe focuses on the past so much, it ruins her, and she doesn’t know who she really is. The return and presence of Beloved “forces Sethe to confront her past and thus reconcile her vision of herself” (Perkins 43).
Critics and also Sethe describe Beloved as the “reincarnation” (Perkins 43) of her dead daughter. Symbolically Beloved is the epitome of pain and...