Slavery’s impact on Motherhood in the novel ‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison?

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In’ Beloved’ Morrison shows the physical and psychological effects slavery had on African American women. Morrison takes a true life event from African American history to remind people of the horrors and terrors of slavery. Beloved was inspired by the true story of Margaret Garner, a slave. On Jan. 28, 1856, Garner who was facing recapture killed her two-year old daughter and attempted to kill her other two children in order to protect her children from slavery. The theme of mother hood is present throughout the novel. Morrison portrays the struggles black slave women faced as mothers within the institution of slavery. The positive qualities of motherhood are constantly tested against the cruelty of slavery within the novel.

Morrison reflects the nature of slavery through the idea of slavery taking away the maternal rights of slave women. This evident in the subside story of Baby Suggs and her unclear memory of her own children. She confides in Sethe that “four taken, four chased...” here Morrison shows how Baby Suggs remembers her children with contrition and bitterness, “My first born all I can remember of her is how she loved the burnt bottom of bread”. Morrison uses this memory of Baby Suggs child to emphasis the incongruity between slavery and motherhood. Unlike Sethe who loved her children fiercely, Baby Suggs would not allow herself to love or remember them whilst in slavery because she knew that it would cause her pain when they were inevitably separated. The juxtaposition of Sethe and baby Suggs’s mothering indicate the conflict slave women had in loving their children.
Sethe’s fierce love for her children defies the rules of slavery. The children of slave women belong to their owners; however Sethe clings on to t...

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...or her child and this shows the deepest kind love. In some ways we can say that this is Sethe ending the conflict between slavery and motherhood. “ she gathered the parts of her that were precious and fine and beautiful” for Sethe to allow her children to be taken back to a life of slavery would be taking away everything that she gave “life” to and to destroy all that’s good in her world. .

Toni Morrison shows in clear depth the struggles slave women had in loving their children and how the right to be mother was stolen from them. She uses Sethe as a symbol to show how strong Motherhood truly is. Despite, slavery preventing Mothers the right to care for and nurture their children. Morrison portrays motherhood as a powerful source to be reckoned with.

Works Cited
Beloved by Toni Morrison
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