To survive, one must depend on the acceptance and integration of what is past and what is present. In her novel Beloved, Toni Morrison carefully constructs events that parallel the way the human mind functions; this serves as a means by which the reader can understand the activity of memory. "Rememory" enables Sethe, the novel's protagonist, to reconstruct her past realities. The vividness that Sethe brings to every moment through recurring images characterizes her understanding of herself. Through rememory, Morrison is able to carry Sethe on a journey from being a woman who identifies herself only with motherhood, to a woman who begins to identify herself as a human being. Morrison glorifies the potential of language, and her faith in the power and construction of words instills trust in her readers that Sethe has claimed ownership of her freed self. The structure of Morrison's novel, which is arranged in trimesters, carries the reader on a mother's journey beginning with the recognition of a haunting "new" presence, then gradually coming to terms with one's fears and reservations, and finally giving birth to a new identity while reclaiming one's own.
Morrison characterizes the first trimester of Beloved as a time of unrest in order to create an unpleasant tone associated with any memories being stirred. Sethe struggles daily to block out her past. The first thing that she does when she gets to work is to knead bread: "Working dough. Working, working dough. Nothing better than that to the day's serious work of beating back the past" (Morrison 73). The internal and external scars which slavery has left on Sethe's soul are irreparable. Each time she relives a memory, she ...
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...ge with Sethe. She not only searches for her face, but wants to be that face. In taking ownership of herself, Sethe unshackles herself from the ghosts of her past. Beloved has helped Sethe to free herself, and now can finally depart. Beloved takes Sethe's complex past and from it lifts one of life's simple truths: only you can define yourself. Sethe is finally free and at peace.
From spiteful to loud to quiet, 124 Bluestone Road has evolved just as the characters have. All have remembered. Redemption comes because the past has been reconciled. Forgetting comes only with the pain of remembering, and in a world of rememories, we are bound to bump in to one of our own. Morrison gives birth to a story and in doing so claims ownership for herself, which is something only she could do.
Morrison, Toni. Beloved. New York: Plume, 1987.
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