Toni Morrison's Beloved is set in rural Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1873. The novel is centered on a woman named Sethe, who is the mother of four children, and an escapee from slavery in a Kentucky plantation 18 years ago. She lives with her daughter, Denver in a shabby house at 124 Bluestone, that they share with the ghost of a dead baby, which haunts Sethe by reminding her of past tragedies. Paul D, Sethe's new lover and a former Kentucky slave man whom Sethe takes in, helps shed light in Sethe's sad life. Also arriving at the doorstep is a mysterious, ill young woman who calls herself Beloved. Gradually, Beloved penetrates the lives of all who live in the haunted house, forcing Sethe to confront her nightmarish memories.
Morrison's compelling scene in chapter 27 of when the thirty community women congregate in front of 124 Bluestone to battle the ghost haunting the house, is carefully constructed to contribute to the theme of healing and structure of the work. As Denver is awaiting transportation for her first day on the job as Bodwin's evening nurse, thirty neighborhood women pray and sing at the edge of the yard after hearing speculations from that the ghost of Sethe's dead daughter is causing the family to deteriorate. Sethe and Beloved intrigued by the music move to the porch. 'Sethe was breaking a lump of ice into chunks. When the music entered the window she was wringing a cool cloth to put on Beloved's forehead.
Sethe and she exchanged glances and started toward the window' (Morrison 261). As the Bodwin approaches in a cart with his horses to pick up Denver, Sethe is triggered by a flashback of when the schoolteacher and the slave catcher came to get her children 18 years ago. Racing towards the cart, Sethe releases the hand of Beloved and runs toward to crowd using the ice pick as an attachment of her hand to protect her Beloved. 'He is coming into her yard and he is coming for her best thing... And if she thinks anything, it is no' (Morrison 262). The thirty community women whom Sethe was running toward stop her and Beloved neglected on the porch by herself disappears.
'Sethe is running away from her, running, and she feels the emptiness in the hand Sethe has been holding. Now she is running into the faces of the people out there, joining them and leaving Beloved behind. Alone. Again. Then Denver, running too.
Away from her to the pile of people out there' (Morrison 262). Morrison symbolically describes this scene to illustrate Sethe and Denver moving on in life and leaving the tragedies of the past behind. Morrison describes Beloved in this scene as having an expanding waist in order to illustrate Beloved as an expanding monster who is greedily consuming everything that belongs to the family and shattering the fragile infrastructure the family is tentatively gripping on to. In this scene, Sethe is presented as obsessively centering all of her attention and energy into pleasing Beloved, because she is penitent for her past tragedies 18 years ago when she killed Beloved in order to keep her from bondage. Morrison portrays Denver as a guard watching over the yard; the duty Denver has assumed since her mother's crime years ago. By allowing the flashback and violent attack to occur the vicious cycle that each character is miserably engulfed by is broken, which allows a new beginning to the individuals lives.
This scene contributes to the structure of the work because it allows the novel to narrate itself in the presence tense. After Sethe's violent attack she is able to heal and no longer has to dig into the horrifying tragedies of her past. The rest of the novel from that scene when Sethe has a flashback and lashes in violence, takes place in present tense. Morrison narrates the rest of the novel in present tense in order to illustrate that the past no longer haunts Sethe as it once did years ago.
Sethe can now start a new life without reminders of her shameful past experiences. Morrison works this scene into conveying her theme of healing and confronting past memories. After the thirty neighborhood women congregates in front 124 Bluestone singing and praying, and when Mr. Bodwin comes with a cart, the thirty women stop Sethe from committing the same act she did 18 years ago. Sometimes getting rid of, or not having a reminder of one's past tragedies will allow room to heal.
When Beloved disappears Sethe is able to heal. Sethe and Denver can conduct a life of peace and harmony without being disturbed by the ghost from Sethe's past. Morrison's deepest purpose for constructing this scene is to illustrate a time for healing, a theme that Morrison develops from this compelling scene. After this violent episode, and Beloved disappears, Sethe and Denver are finally able to resume their lives with peace and harmony, as Morrison symbolically represents when Sethe releases Beloved and run towards the crowd with Denver.
Morrison illustrates the healing process to taking place in her conclusion when each characters seeks ways to better their lives and situations. Denver is working at the Bodwin's to help the family and may possibly attend Oberlin College while Sethe is restoring her self-esteem with the help of Paul D. Morrison is successful at combining elements of structure and theme in this scene to facilitate the course of the novel events to take place.