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The Contrasting Nature Of Love Explored In Toni Morrison's Beloved

1381 words - 6 pages

In her novel Beloved, Toni Morrison explores the paradoxical nature of love both as a dangerous presence that promises suffering and a life-giving force that gives the strength to proceed; through the experiences of the run-away slave Sethe. The dangerous aspect of love is revealed through the comments of Paul D and Ella regarding the motherly love of Sethe towards her children. Sethe's deep attachment to her children is deemed dangerous due to their social environment which evidently promises that the loved one of a slave will be hurt. On the other hand, love is portrayed as a sustaining force that allows Sethe to move on with her life. All the devastating experiences Sethe endures do not matter due to the fact that she must live for her children. Although dangerous, Sethe's love finally emerges as the prevalent force that allows her to leave the past behind and move on with her life.
The dangerous aspect of Sethe's love is first established with the comments of Paul D regarding her attachment to Denver. At page 54, when Sethe refuses to hear Paul D criticize Denver, he thinks: "Risky, thought Paul D, very risky. For a used-to-be-slave woman to love anything that much was dangerous(…)" he deems Sethe's attachment dangerous because he believes that when "(…) they broke its back, or shoved it in a croaker sack (…)" having such a strong love will prevent her from going on with her life. Paul D's remarks indicate that evidently the loved one of a slave is taken away. Mothers are separated from their children, husbands from their wives and whole families are destroyed; slaves are not given the right to claim their loved ones. Having experienced such atrocities, Paul D realizes that the deep love Sethe bears for her daughter will only serve to produce more pain when she loses her. This aspect of love is further strengthened with the similar opinion of Ella evident when she comments at page 108 "If anybody was to ask me I'd say, ‘Don't love nothing.' " Morrison's description of Ella in the same page as she "Listened too for the unnamed, unmentioned people left behind." serves to draw a parallelism between Paul D and Ella. The hardship that they have endured and witnessed has made them realize that love is a liability in times of slavery and even when one is free the threat of loss is still imminent. This realization has led them to abandon love in order to free themselves of suffering. This parallelism between Paul D and Ella serves to further strengthen the dangers of love due to the society and sets the first aspect of the contrasting nature of love.
The other aspect of love that provides a contrast with its dangerous facet is its life-giving force; which is conveyed through the events surrounding Baby Suggs. The mother in-law of Sethe, Baby Suggs is frequently referred to have a "great big heart". This depiction indicates her capacity to love and her desire to spread her love to all those around her. Her speech in page 103 is the embodiment of...

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