In the novel Beloved, by Toni Morrison, Sethes killing of Beloved to save her from her future and raising of Denver to save her from her past are both done with the goal of saving them from having to live the past and present that she has yet to overcome. The Start of Beloved is a rather confusing one. Toni Morrison gives no critical information in the first few pages as to the central idea, tragedy, or background of the characters. Beloved is a true story. In the early 70 s, Toni Morrison stumbled across an article that she could not put down: A Visit to the Slave Mother Who Killed Her Child. A slave by the name of Margaret Garner had fled from slavery with her four children.
When she was tracked down by her masters slave catchers she tried to kill her children so that they could not be forced into a life of slavery (David 112). Only one of them died. Margaret was quoted as saying shed rather her children be dead than be made slaves. Sethe has a past that is full of running and fear. After Sethe had already given birth to Beloved and becomes pregnant with Denver, she flees with her children out of fear of them being sold into slavery. Little does she know, this fleeing will have the most dramatic impact on her future.
Sethe makes it to Baby Suggs (her mother-in-laws) house successfully. She is caught by Schoolteachers nephews and returned to slavery where she is held down while she is still pregnant and raped of her milk. Again, she escapes back to Baby Suggs where she lives free for 28 days. One day while she is in the yard she sees Schoolteacher and runs to gather her children into a shed where she attempts to murder all of them. She only succeeds at killing Beloved. She goes to prison and is released, ridiculed, and avoided by her neighbors.
She gets a job and finally settles down with Baby Suggs. After the haunting of the house by Beloved Paul D. says, Maybe you ought to move (Morrison 15). Sethe darts back a him with the response I will never run from another thing on this earth (Morrison 15). At first glance, one may ask why Why would she kill her own daughter The answer is one that can not be easily answered or justified. The idea of the occurrence is that Sethe did it out of love and fear.
She wants to save Beloved from her future of slavery, abuse, ridicule, and from dying the death of a slave. Even after Beloved returns in the flesh as a 20-year-old girl she feels the pain of not having the love of a mother. She brings grief with her and knows nothing of her past. She becomes more of a burden than a joy as she begins to take her toll. Beloved becomes a demonic force returned to punish and to redeem Sethe (Otten 84). She puts a separation between Paul D.
and Sethe. Towards the end of Beloveds existence Sethe finally realizes that Beloved is her daughter reincarnated. Beloved becomes insatiable and begins to drain the life out of Sethe (David 121). Word spreads about this reincarnated girl and her draining the life out of Sethe, a group of ladies from the town who had been avoiding Sethe since she killed Beloved, come pray and sing gospel songs outside of the house. Beloved disappears. In the Same way that Sethe killed Beloved to save her from her future, Sethe raises Denver in such a way as to save her from her past.
The first sign of this is subtle. In the beginning of the novel, one sees that Denver almost suffers from living in the house that is being haunted. She no longer attends school because the other students ridiculed her, her brothers have run away out of fear of the haunting spirit, and her mother refuses to move them in her determination to never run from anything again. Denver knows about the past, and about Beloveds death. Sethe never spoke much about the past or what has happened. One of the most revealing passages about the past spoken by Sethe is when she told Denver You cant never go there.
Never. Because even though its all over over and done with its going to always be there waiting for you. Thats how come I had to get all my children out. No matter what (Morrison 36). She was referring to Sweet home, the place where she had run from and recaptured as a slave so many times previous. Denver has realized since her childhood that the occurrences of her mothers past will always effect her life.
She also realizes that Beloved, both as a ghost and in the flesh, is the only friend that she has. When Paul D. asks Denver if she thought Beloved was really her sister come from the grave, Denver replies, At times. At times I think she was more (Otter 83). When Beloved returns in the flesh, Denver recognizes her immediately while Sethe seems oblivious as to whom she might be. Sethe seems not to know who Beloved could be, however it seems to mesh perfectly with the concept of Sethe repressing her past.
Maybe she did not want to admit to herself that this girl was the child that she had lost so many years previous. Sethe and Denver finally brake the cycle of events that occur in their lives. From the beginning of the book to the end, we see many occurrences that happen repeatedly and are not broken until the end of the novel. One of these is in the males in their lives. A male figure such as Paul D.
seems to come into their lives to make change but always seems to be driven away by something. Paul D. is driven away by Sethes loving too many things too much. Halle is driven away by his shame and fear of not helping Sethe when Schoolteachers nephews are raping her. Sethe is also constantly sending Beloved off only to bring her close to her again. First she kills her to save her from slavery, then Beloved comes back as a ghost to let Sethe know that she is still with her.
Paul D. sends the ghost out of the house and it actually leaves them alone until she comes back in the Flesh. Another key is their inability to move on and leave the past behind them. At the end of the novel we see that Sethe is finally able to let Beloved go and put that huge part of her past behind her, and again Paul D. returns to stay. In the end, we see that Sethe has succeeded in her goal of giving her daughters free lives.
Denver is finally able to go about the community to socialize, and work as a regular girl and Beloved is finally at rest. Sethe is now able to stop running from her past. She has done much damage to herself in all of her running, but now her girls are free.