“A moment lasts all of a second, but the memory lasts forever”- Anonymous
In Toni Morrison’s Beloved, the concept of memory is so intertwined with the novel that it is becomes a character; like any character it has impulses, it breaths, it moves, it pushes action forward, and it prevents it; if repressed it sometimes fights; it gives life, and attempts to take it away. Memory and identity are inseparable and interchangeable; what happened in the past becomes not only a part of you; it is you; in the same light it is also possible to identify a strongly felt emotion with a previous memory; a memory of how you felt during a traumatic situation that is played over your daily life, almost like a sensory soundtrack, it becomes almost like a dual self, existing in the same time and the same place. In this essay I will be looking at the effects that memory takes in this novel, how it affects the characters of Baby Suggs, Sethe, Denver, and Paul D., and how memory can both take and give freedom.
Sethe is a woman trapped in a private prison; although seemingly independent and strong, she remains tethered to her past, almost like an invisible umbilical cord; she is bound to the memory of her dead daughter, Beloved, the one whom she murdered. In the beginning of the novel, Sethe’s existence is an empty shell; she’s impaired in a way both mentally and emotionally by her experience at Sweet Home, and her nameless dead daughter, yet she still manages to cope, or rather suppress her memories. Sethe’s daily life compared to her recalled life at Sweet Home presents a dual existence; she attempts to live in the present, but the challenge of attempting to do so introduces a problem; in the novel, Sethe brings up an ana...
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...The final death of Beloved occurs when Sethe is confronted with a “rememory”; instead of attacking Beloved, like she did in the past, Sethe attempts to hurt Denver’s employer. This new action causes Beloved to disappear; Sethe instead of doing what she did previously does something new- it stops the cycle. New action gives a new course.
Remembering past generations brings the same action and feelings to the present. Memories that are imported have an effect on the present, and how one looks at the world changes. Memory may fail, people recall actions that may not have actually happened how they say they do; confusion with details is inevitable. People’s names are erased, their identity, although separate before, becomes collective; when one is forgotten they all are: “Nothing better than to start the day’s serious work of beating back the past” (86).
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