The Water Motif In Beloved By Toni Morrison

1437 words - 6 pages


In her novel Beloved, Toni Morrison writes about the life of former slaves of Sweet Home. Sethe, one of the main characters, was once a slave to a man and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Garner. After Garner’s sudden death, schoolteacher comes to Sweet Home and takes control of the slaves. His treatment of all the slaves forced them to run away. Fearing that her children would be sold, Sethe sent her two boys and her baby girl ahead to her mother-in-law. On the way to freedom, a white girl named Amy Denver helped Sethe deliver her daughter, who she later names Denver. About a month after Sethe escapes slavery, schoolteacher found her and tried to bring her back. In fear that her children would be brought back into slavery, Sethe killed her older daughter and attempted to kill Denver and her boys. Sethe, along with Denver, was sent to prison and spent three months there. Buglar and Howard, her two sons, eventually ran away. After about eighteen years, another ex-slave from Sweet Home, Paul D., came to live with Sethe and Denver. A few days later, while coming home from a carnival, Sethe, Paul D., and Denver found a young woman of about twenty on their porch. She claimed her name is Beloved. They took her in and she lived with them. Throughout the novel, Morrison uses many symbols and imagery to express her thoughts and to help us better understand the characters. Morrison uses the motif of water throughout the novel to represent birth, re-birth, and escape to freedom.
     In Beloved, one of the things that water represents is birth. When Sethe was running away form Sweet Home, she was pregnant. In order to get to freedom, she had to cross the Ohio River. On the way to the river, Sethe met a young white girl named Amy Denver. Amy helped Sethe to keep going because her feet were swollen up. When Sethe and Amy got to the river, Sethe thought the baby had died during the previous night. However, she soon felt the signs of labor. “It looked like home to her, and the baby (not dead in the least) must have thought so too. As soon as Sethe got close to the river her own water broke loose to join it. The break, followed by the redundant announcement of labor, arched her back'; (p. 83). Sethe crawled into a boat that soon began to fill with water. It was in this boat that Sethe gave birth to Denver. “When a foot rose from the riverbed and kicked the bottom of the boat and Sethe’s behind, she knew it was done and permitted herself a short faint'; (p. 84). In these two passages, water signifies birth. Denver was thought to be dead until Sethe reached the river, a large body of water. Also, Denver is actually born in the water because the boat that Sethe was in was filled up with water. When Beloved first appears at Sethe’s house, Sethe leans in to look at the woman’s face. As she does so, she suddenly feels a great need to relive herself. “She never made the outhouse....

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