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The Defined Vs. The Definers Essay

738 words - 3 pages

In Beloved, Toni Morrison imbeds novel characters like Sethe to emphasize her claim that you cannot define yourself until you challenge your past and take ownership of it. Not every character complies with Morrison’s claim, some defy it and let others define them. Sethe struggles to face the true and honest past, yet finds minute moments of a felt sense of ownership.
Sethe’s struggle to find her self ownership blooms from her past at Sweet Home. She was young when she first came to Sweet Home the “six men” treated her with a “mild brotherly flirtation”. Under the care of Mr. and Mrs. Garner, Sethe was well taken care of. When it was time for her to marry Mrs. Garner said it was “alright” and Halle would be “good to her”. Here Sethe has the small sense that she too is a “person”. Sethe defines herself here as a woman not a slave, expressed by getting a married even without a big celebration. This definition of her self engraves itself symbolically into the diamond earrings Mrs. Garner presents to Sethe. In sharp contrast to Mr. Garner and his wife, the Schoolteacher (the new master of Sweet Home) takes all self ownership and ships it away. All he did was “[break] three more Sweet Home men”. One single action causes Sethe to lose her sense of ownership at Sweet Home. The nephew of the Schoolteacher had taken her “milk”. This action makes the Schoolteacher be the definer and Sethe the defined. Sethe no longer owns herself nor does she own anything about her.
After leaving Sweet Home Sethe travels to a house referred to as “124”. Here is where all her children and Halles mother live. Once arriving at 124 Sethe regains the sense of ownership, but in a different meaning. Where at Sweet Home Sethe had once ownership of her mind, now Sethe believes she has ownership of her children. Unfortunately, she comes to realize that her assumption of having all her children was all wrong, Paul D explains this well in his statement“You got two feet Sethe. Not four”. Howard and Buglar, Sethe's two boys, leave not long...

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