The maternal bond between mother and kin is valued and important in all cultures. Mothers and children are linked together and joined: physically, by womb and breast; and emotionally, by a sense of self and possession. Once that bond is established, a mother will do anything for her child. In the novel Beloved, the author, Toni Morrison, describes a woman, Sethe, who's bond is so strong she goes to great lengths to keep her children safe and protected from the evil that she knows. She gave them the gift of life, then, adding to that, the joy of freedom. Determined to shield them from the hell of slavery, she took drastic measures to keep them from that life. But, in doing so, the bond that was her strength became her weakness, destroying the only thing she loved.
Slaves, in the United States, were denied everything -- all forms of identifying with the human race. They were denied their freedom of life: the very right to appreciate and enjoy the beauty of nature in the world, it not being theirs to enjoy. Additionally, they were denied the very way in which all humans identify themselves -- through the influence of others. They were disallowed community and harmony among their peoples. Children were taken from their mothers, and brothers from their sisters. Dr. Kubitcheck says, ?Another crucial part of identity and culture, language, also has been lost to the slaves? (126). Individual slaves were often placed on plantations with other slaves from different parts of Africa, speaking completely different languages, and thus having no way of communication between them. ?Symbolically,? Kubitcheck says, ?slavery . . . obliterated African identity? (126). Because...
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...ing - the part of her that was clean? (251). Sethe?s ?commitment to her children remains unshakable,? Kubitcheck says (123). Though her actions were appalling and disgraceful according to the community, it was done with a sense of love and protection, so as not to break the maternal bond.
The bond between a mother and her child is beyond the grasp of words. Toni Morrison, in Beloved, tries to take hold of it. Creating a character who is so consumed by her children being a measure of her worth, Morrison shows the strength of the maternal bond. It is that which has the power to love something or someone with all one?s heart. It is that love which, giving life, is strong enough to kill.
1. Kubitcheck, MD. Toni Morrison: A Critical Companion. London: Greenwood Press, 1998.
2. Morrison, Toni. Beloved. New York: Plume, 1987.
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