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In the novel Beloved, Toni Morrison reveals the horrors of slavery and how it destroys an individual's identity and role within the community.

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Introduction

Sharon Quesada A.P. English Period 3 May 20, 2002 In the novel Beloved, Toni Morrison reveals the horrors of slavery and how it destroys an individual's identity and role within the community. Slavery in its fundamental nature acts as an obstacle to motherhood. The way in which Baby Suggs and Sethe deal with motherhood is relative to their situations. Sethe is forced to murder her daughter so that slavery will not overcome her. Slavery acted in direct opposition to the ability of a woman to be a proper mother. Through the usage of symbolism, Morrison explores and depicts the internal conflicts that lead Sethe to the extremity of killing her child. Throughout the novel, Morrison uses the characters Sethe and Baby Suggs to illustrate how their roles as mothers was dehumanized because of slavery. Sethe loved her children, her own flesh and blood, enough to take their life away because of the fear that their life would be filled with pain and servitude. Sethe killed her baby because, in her mind, her children were the only pure part of her and had to be protected from the "dirtiness"(251) ...read more.

Middle

Baby Suggs learns that "the nastiness of life was the shock she received upon learning that nobody stopped playing checkers just because the pieces included her children"(23). Baby Suggs learned early in her years of motherhood that slavery destroyed the union of her family. Slavery was the institution that destroyed the special bonds of motherhood. It broke Baby Suggs family apart. Through her experiences, Baby Suggs realized that nothing is definite and that she would probably not be able to see her children to adulthood and attempted to guard herself against this pain. Sethe's role as a mother was symbolically defined and influenced by the tragedies that occurred in her life. Sethe's powerful love for her children had her believe that she had "milk enough for all"(201), but it was the act of being robbed of this milk that drove Sethe to kill her children. The breast milk symbolized how strong Sethe's maternal desires were. She could never forget the terror of the schoolteacher's nephews robbing her of her nurturing substances. ...read more.

Conclusion

By going to extremes, she robbed her baby of her life. Beloved shows how not only her life was taken from her, but also her mother. This demonstrates how slavery tears mothers away form their daughters. Her strong love has Sethe state how her "plan was to take [them] all [including herself] to the other side were [her] own ma'am [was]"(203). In Sethe's eyes, death is a much better alternative than slavery, and because she has never had to deal with separation from her children before, she knows of no other way to escape from her situation. Her love for her children was as strong as any bond of motherhood that she did everything, including murder, to keep her children with her. Sethe knew that in death, unity was guaranteed. In Toni Morrison's Beloved, Morrison exposes a new image of motherhood as contaminated by the atrocities of slavery. By killing her child, Sethe is protecting her child. She tried to break the destructive power of slavery by taking her child's life before it could be taken from her. Slavery was the ultimate obstacle that stood between motherhood and destruction. Morrison's use of symbols helped convey the internal struggles faced by the characters because of slavery. ...read more.

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