Justifying the Murder in Beloved by Toni Morrison

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Justifying the Murder in Beloved by Toni Morrison

Beloved is a tale about slavery. The central character is Sethe, who

is an escaped slave. Sethe kills her child named Beloved to 'save

her'. The book is written so that different peoples points of view are

put forward in different chapters. Toni Morrison presents three types

of love relationships, parent-child, brotherly love and sexual

relationships - within or near the confines of slavery. Slavery

weakens the bond between mothers and there children. Three parent-

child relationships exhibited in Beloved are the bond between 'maa'm

and Sethe', Sethe and Beloved and Sethe and Denver. Their

relationships explore the bond between all the characters.

There are two ways of interpreting the killing of Beloved, Sethe could

be seen as saving her, motivated by true love or selfish pride? By

looking at the varying nature of Sethe, it can be said that, she is a

women who chooses to love her children but not herself. She kills the

baby, because in her mind, her children are the only part of her that

has not been soiled by slavery, she refuses to contemplate that by

showing this mercy she is committing a murder. Throughout Beloved,

Sethes duplistic character is displayed in the nature of her actions.

Shortly after her re-union with Paul D she describes her reaction to

schoolteachers arrival as 'Oh no, I wasn't going back there. I went to

jail instead' (P42) These words could be seen that Sethe was

portraying a moral stand by refusing to allow herself and her children

to be dragged back into the evil word of slavery. Clearly, Sethe

believes that her actions were justified from the beginning. . Wh...

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...remember is how she loved the bottom of bread. Can you beat that eight

children that's all I remember'. Like Paul D she adopts the practice

of 'loving only a little', accepting that she has no control over her

children's lives. Sethe's act of violence is in her not compromising a

right to love her own children. When Paul D criticises her for her

large claims, saying her love is 'too thick. She responds that 'Love

is or ain't. Thin love ain't love at all'. For Sethe love has no

bounds. Her ideas of right and wrong are confused. What we have is a

bizarre version of love - mother, daughter, and vengeful ghost, and

the book confirms that it is a prehistoric society which has caused

all this inhumane view of life. This leads to Sethe to her killing her



Morrison, Toni. Beloved. New York: Knopf, 1987
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