Beloved: Analysis

analytical Essay
7004 words
7004 words

From the beginning, Beloved focuses on the import of memory and history. Sethe struggles daily with the haunting legacy of slavery, in the form of her threatening memories and also in the form of her daughter’s aggressive ghost. For Sethe, the present is mostly a struggle to beat back the past, because the memories of her daughter’s death and the experiences at Sweet Home are too painful for her to recall consciously. But Sethe’s repression is problematic, because the absence of history and memory inhibits the construction of a stable identity. Even Sethe’s hard-won freedom is threatened by her inability to confront her prior life. Paul D’s arrival gives Sethe the opportunity and the impetus to finally come to terms with her painful life history.
Already in the first chapter, the reader begins to gain a sense of the horrors that have taken place. Like the ghost, the address of the house is a stubborn reminder of its history. The characters refer to the house by its number, 124. These digits highlight the absence of Sethe’s murdered third child. As an institution, slavery shattered its victims’ traditional family structures, or else precluded such structures from ever forming. Slaves were thus deprived of the foundations of any identity apart from their role as servants. Baby Suggs is a woman who never had the chance to be a real mother, daughter, or sister. Later, we learn that neither Sethe nor Paul D knew their parents, and the relatively long, six-year marriage of Halle and Sethe is an anomaly in an institution that would regularly redistribute men and women to different farms as their owners deemed necessary.
The scars on Sethe’s back serve as another testament to her disfiguring and dehumanizing years as a slave. Like the ghost, the scars also work as a metaphor for the way that past tragedies affect us psychologically, “haunting” or “scarring” us for life. More specifically, the tree shape formed by the scars might symbolize Sethe’s incomplete family tree. It could also symbolize the burden of existence itself, through an allusion to the “tree of knowledge” from which Adam and Eve ate, initiating their mortality and suffering. Sethe’s “tree” may also offer insight into the empowering abilities of interpretation. In the same way that the white men are able to justify and increase their power over the slaves by “studying” and interpreting them according to their own whims, Amy’s interpretation of Sethe’s mass of ugly scars as a “chokecherry tree” transforms a story of pain and oppression into one of survival.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how beloved's arrival demonstrates the difficulty—indeed, the impossibility—of repressing the past.
  • Analyzes how beloved's monologue is highly impressionistic, dense, and its meaning is elusive. she describes a slave ship transporting africans to america.
  • Analyzes how morrison demonstrates literature's ability to recuperate a history that would otherwise be lost to willed forgetfulness and silence.
  • Analyzes how sethe's mistaking of mr. bodwin for schoolteacher during the exorcism indicates the extent of her immersed in the past.
  • Analyzes how morrison creates a space for victims and perpetrators of oppression to confront and narrate their pasts.
  • Explains that when paul d showed up at the doorstep of 124, he seemed aware of the necessity of confronting the past in order to escape its grip.
  • Analyzes how beloved catalogs a past that contemporary readers must contend with before moving forward. the narrator filters the story through various perspectives of sethe, paul d, denver, baby suggs, stamp paid, lady jones, mr. bodwin, and ella.
  • Analyzes how beloved focuses on the import of memory and history. sethe struggles daily with the haunting legacy of slavery.
  • Analyzes how the narration alternates between two time periods—the present in cincinnati and the sweet home past.
  • Analyzes how beloved's mystical arrival interrupts the progress that is made in chapter 4.
  • Analyzes how beloved incites the narration of history time and again. sethe and paul d devote their energies to it, despite the pain involved.
  • Compares two philosophies of dealing with pain: baby suggs, paul d, and ella espouse the other.
  • Analyzes how the language used to describe denver's relationship with beloved is loaded with the vocabulary of need and desire.
  • Analyzes how morrison's indictment of the black community in sethe’s crime exemplifies the moral ambiguity that pervades beloved.
  • Analyzes stamp paid's meditation on the tangled network of guilt and retribution that forms racism’s “jungle.”
  • Analyzes how the language in chapters 20 through 23 is stylized to represent each character's stream of consciousness. sethe, beloved, and denver have conflated their identities beyond recognition.
  • Analyzes how stamp's renaming is a metaphorical suicide, as he is estranged from vashti and has developed emotional coping mechanisms that discourage him from loving too passionately.
  • Analyzes how denver, as sethe's only remaining child, represents the future, while beloved, representing the haunting legacy of slavery.
Get Access