Essay on Religion in "Beloved"

Essay on Religion in "Beloved"

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Toni Morrison’s novel, Beloved, explores the physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering that was brought on by slavery. Several critical works recognize that Morrison incorporates aspects of traditional African religions and to Christianity to depict the anguish slavery placed not only on her characters, but other enslaved African Americans. This review of literature will explore three different scholarly articles that exemplifies how Morrison successfully uses African religions and Christianity to depict the story of how slavery affected the characters’ lives in the novel, even after their emancipation from slavery.
The novel, Beloved, centers around the life of Sethe, a former slave, who murders her infant daughter to save her from a life of slavery. Eighteen years later, Sethe’s daughter, Beloved, returns from the grave as a young woman. In Arlene Keizer’s article, Beloved: Ideologies in Conflict, Improvised Subjects, Keizer claims that Beloved’s return in the flesh is in itself extended evocation of certain African belief systems (120). By representing Beloved as a human being and not as a spirit, Morrison has demonstrated the beliefs of two African religious traditions, one taken from the Yoruba and Igbo and the other taken from the Akamba people of Kenya (120). Keizer quotes Dr. Carole B. Davies by stating, the children of Yoruba cosmology or the Igbo culture, who die and are reborn repeatedly to plague their mothers, are marked so that they can be identified when they return (qt in Keizer 121). In the novel, the reincarnated Beloved returns with a scar across her neck where Sethe slash her throat. Keizer then quotes John Mibiti who explains that among the Akamba people of Kenya, a child who dies before she is named is st...


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...ba (112). Throughout the novel, Sethe is devoted to the search of her husband just like Solomon’s beloved wife. Although Sethe never reunites with her husband because he was killed by slaveholders, Morrison creates a replacement in the character Paul D, another former slave. Paul D satisfies the biblical beloved’s description of Sethe’s bridegroom: “I am my beloved’s and his desire is toward me” (7:10), thus fulfilling the promise of a requited love that is pictured in the union of Solomon and Sheba (120).
By reviewing these three articles, it is clear that Morrison does indeed incorporate African religions and Christianity to navigate the storyline of Beloved. Even though some scholars might differ in their opinion on how Morrison incorporates religion into her novel, it is proven that religion was a vital part in Morrison’s approach to writing the novel, Beloved.

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