A Mother’s Timeless Dilemma in "Beloved" by Toni Morrison

Powerful Essays
Women throughout time have been forced to cope with the challenges of motherhood along with society’s expectations as to what a mother’s relationship should be with her child. Novelist, Agatha Christie said of the relationship between mother and child, “A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.” In Beloved, Toni Morrison examines the same idea; ultimately showing that the mother’s willingness to protect her child at all costs often endangers the mother herself. Beloved is set in the late 1800’s but Sethe’s experiences as a mother ring true with the experiences of mothers throughout time because the act of being a mother is timeless. As a child Sethe was separated from her mother both physically and mentally because of slavery, so when she has her own children she is determined to keep her family together. In her attempt to free herself and her children from slavery Sethe finds herself separated from her daughter, Beloved as a result of Beloved’s death. When Beloved returns, Sethe’s guilt causes her to overcompensate for their lost time. Her attempts to make up for this lost time with Beloved lead her to become too dependent on her children’s happiness and to abandon any of her own pursuits in favor of ensuring that her children are content. She gives her children everything she has, but is eventually sucked dry with nothing left to give. This struggle is similar to the struggle of modern women who must leave their children while they work then try to make up for the lost time when they are home. From the time they are girls women are led to believe that more important than their happiness, is their respo...

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...children for a short time, but as Sethe discovers, they cannot continue doing this forever or it will leave them with nothing to give and no energy to care for themselves. Modern mothers must heed the warning issued in Beloved and accept that sometimes it is necessary for a mother and child to be separated and that a mother should not try to compensate for this separation and risk losing herself in the search for her children’s happiness. The relationship between mother and child is unbreakable, no matter how much time has passed, but it must be treated with caution as it has the power to ostracize the two from the rest of the world and allow them to destroy each other.

Works Cited
“Quotations by Author: Agatha Christie (1890-1976).”

The Quotations Page, n.d. Web. 26 Dec. 2009.

Morrison, Toni. Beloved. New York: Vintage Books, 2004. Print.
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