The Importance of Color in Toni Morrison's Beloved
Toni Morrison's Beloved - a novel that addresses the cruelties that result from slavery. Morrison depicts the African American's quest for a new life while showing the difficult task of escaping the past. The African American simply wants to claim freedom and create a sense of community. In Beloved, the characters suffer not from slavery itself, but as a result of slavery - that is to say the pain occurs as they reconstruct themselves, their families, and their communities only "after the devastation of slavery" (Kubitschek 115). Throughout the novel, Morrison utilizes color as a symbolic tool to represent a free, safe, happy life as well as involvement in community and family. She also uses color to convey a character's desire for such a life, while at the same time using it to illustrate the satisfaction and fulfillment that the characters enjoy only after achieving this new life.
Paul D's experience is one example of Morrison's use of color as a symbol. Paul D asks a Cherokee man how to get North - "Free North. Magical North," (Morrison 112), thus conveying his desire for a free, safe, happy, new, and magical life. The Cherokee man replies, "Follow the tree flowers." Here is where the color comes in. When one thinks about or describes flowers, their colors are always of paramount importance. In his journey North, Paul D would "scan the horizon for a flash of pink or white...[or] blossoming plums" (Morrison 113). By having Paul D search for colorful flowers, Morrison illustrates Paul D's desire for a life full of safety, enjoyment, and freedom.
Just as Paul D desires a better life after slavery, so does Baby Suggs. As a slave, Suggs was suppressed and did not experience the type of life she desired. Morrison indirectly demonstrates this by purposely leaving out any descriptions of color in Suggs's life when she was a slave. Morrison uses this absence of color to express that Suggs had lived the life which she had longed for. She did not experience independence, freedom, safety nor a sense of community when she was a slave. However, after she was sold, she searched for color, or the life that she had wanted. For, "she had never had time to see, let alone enjoy it before" (Morrison 201). Enjoying every color that she could, trying to compensate for the time wasted as a slave, Suggs retreated to her room and concentrated on color. It "took her a long time to finish with blue, then yellow then green" (Morrison 201). Making explicit the absence of color while Suggs was a slave and then describing the way she relished the colors of her newly acquired freedom, Morrison conveys Suggs's fulfillment of the life she had longed to have when she was a slave. Finally, as her life ended, Suggs was happy with the freedom, sense of community and family that she had achieved.
Although Suggs lives this free-life for a period of time, eventually...