23 November 2011
The Pain and Benefits of Memory
In life there is mostly only one thing that reminds you of the past and that is your memory. Memories come in many varieties: happy, sad, and painful. These memories help us remember what was and how our lives have changed. In the 1987 publication Beloved, written by Toni Morrison, a family struggles with the spirit and human form of the dead daughter of the protagonist Sethe. She is experiencing memories that trigger every painful event her and the other characters have gone through throughout their lives. Sethe, was a slave at a plantation called Sweet Home and it brought her pain that she and her friend Paul D had no intentions on bring back up until Beloved comes back from the unknown and makes the two remember all the things they tried so hard to forget. Memory plays a huge role in the novel, it eventually changes who the characters “thought” they were. In the novel memories extracts emotions, actions, and thoughts. Memory made the characters feel things they forgot they could feel, but it also made them feel feelings they didn’t want to feel either. When the novel begins it talks of how Sethe tries to remember as little as she can about the hideous place she ran away from. With her lack of wanting to remember her past it has her memory of her sons Howard and Buglar fading fast. Within that same chapter she says “Boys hanging from the most beautiful sycamores in the world. It shamed her---remembering the wonderful soughing trees rather than the boys” (Morrison 9). The fact of Sethe not being able to remember much about her sons pained her. (A loss of visual memory causes a general amnesia). Sethe says "work[s] hard to remember as close to nothing as was safe" (Morrison 8).
Although Sethe tries to forget the painful memory of Sweet Home, it consumes her and keeps her from living her life to its full potential. "Her brain was not interested in the future. Loaded with the past and hungry for more, it left her no room to imagine, let alone plan for, the next day" (Morrison 72). Sethe is living her life through her actions due to her memory of the past. She tries to give Beloved everything she wants because of her memory of the day she killed her “crawling already” daughter pains her to think about and remember. Beloved, who was once a spirit haunting the family that lived while she died, came to 124 Bluestone Road and wanted to hear all the stories of Sethe, Sweet Home, and of 124. Her arrival quickly makes the characters speak on past events and made them hurt but eventually come to terms with their past and overcome the pain they had. Beloved helped Paul D overcome his feelings of not being able to love and allowed him to open his heart and love and feel again. (“Models”). Beloved also gave Denver the strength to overcome her feelings about being and outsider. She went back to taking her lessons, got a job, and even confided in the same people who shunned her for what her mother had did to her sister. Past events make people act different in the future, so the memory of those past event tend to carry over and keep a person from going back to doing this as they were in the past. Sethe’s past in slavery and her memories from her childhood mad her make the decision of not wanting her children to grow up the way she did, in slavery. After she spotted School Teacher coming she took all four of her children in the shed and attempted to kill them, but she only successfully murdered the “crawling already” baby girl. The memory of that day not only affected Sethe and her family it affected the whole community. The community shunned the family living in 124 Bluestone Road. Paul D experiences his actions being affected by his memories of the days at Sweet Home a fair amount in the novel as well. He keeps all of his feeling “in that tobacco tin buried in his chest where a red heart used to be. Its lid rusted stut” (Morrison...