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"As Beloved drains Paul D and Sethe, her animated, ghostly frame becomes the embodiment of the traumatic past and the embodied threat of the past's intrusion on the future" Discuss this statement.

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Introduction

"As Beloved drains Paul D and Sethe, her animated, ghostly frame becomes the embodiment of the traumatic past and the embodied threat of the past's intrusion on the future." Discuss this statement in relation to your understanding of Toni Morrison's novel "Beloved". Beloved is the catalyst of all the disaster at 124. But instead of Morrison making Beloved an obvious evil presence, she writes in such a way that the reader is able to sympathise, not only with Sethe and the other characters of the novel, but Beloved herself as she too is an indirect victim of slavery. Beloved has her life taken by her mother, Sethe, who justifies the killing as a means to escape the world of slavery. This is ironic in itself, as the slave owners look down on the black race, so Sethe is just killing one of her own which the slave owners see as vermin. If the child dies through the hands of her mother then this is defiance to school teacher for Sethe, as if she doesn't kill her then Beloved will probably be tortured as a slave to the white people if she lives. Sethe is fixed on killing her children but only manages to kill Beloved, who at the time did not have a name as she has only just been born. ...read more.

Middle

Sethe is described by Paul D as "iron eyed" - pg 10. Iron is seen as a symbol of strength in the novel, and is used to describe Sethe alone. Sethe could be argued to have had a very unfortunate and perhaps a "worst case scenario" life, with the shock of seeing her disfigured mother dead and surviving prison to name but two horrific cases. Morrison's novel shifts from place to place, and sometimes goes back in time to show that the slave history cannot be described in one story, nor does it happen in such a way that it can be wrote about easily. Slave history is so horrific it almost needs a new way of telling, and this is the way that Morrison has employed. Though the book is based upon slavery, it is the struggle that is met by the characters and how they deal with it that is the real issue in the book. It is about the ability to deal with the past, and how people survive even though it haunts them. Sethe in the end decides to tackle Beloved, to stay and fight after a period of being Beloved's "slave". "Beloved ate up her life, took it, swelled up with it, grew taller on it." - pg 250. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is known that a child in the early stages of life cannot differentiate between itself and it's mother, and this is why Beloved primarily needs Sethe early in the novel. This is made clear particularly in Beloved's soliliquy, but in other parts of the novel too. "I am Beloved and she is mine." - Beloved pg 210 When Beloved becomes bloated it is argued to be because she is pregnant with Paul D's child, but the bloatedness is said to be all of Sethe's past, and Beloved ultimately becomes Sethe's past personified. The fight between Beloved and Sethe is not just a fight between the two characters, it symbolises Sethe standing up to her horrific past, and therefore coming to terms with it, instead of hiding from it and just accepting its there. After Sethe has done this she is able to move on with life, or infact start again with Paul D. Though Beloved is scared of becoming fragmented and forgotten about, this is what happens to her in the end. So Beloved although is the catalyst of all the disaster at 124, she helps the characters come to terms with a repressed past, and helps them move on to lead lives that are not constantly shadowed with pain. This is key when Paul D asks Denver if she thinks Beloved was really her sister. "At times. At times I think she was more." - Denver pg 266. ...read more.

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