The Never Ending Cycle of Slavery
In Toni Morrison’s Beloved, emotions and memories of the past create certain physical and mental conflicts for Sethe, the protagonist of the novel. These memories, oftentimes related to Sethe’s experience as a slave, take control of her life. As Sethe continues to recall these memories, she inches closer and closer to insanity. These events that occur with Sethe, in both her past and present, show a theme that Morrison tries to illustrate in the story. This theme shows that the memories of slavery will never die in the eyes of a former slave. This is illustrated through three phases: Sethe’s memories of life at Sweet Home, Schoolteacher’s return, and Beloved and Paul D’s return. All of these help develop the theme.
Sethe suffered from extremely poor treatment as a slave in Sweet Home. Life as a slave on a plantation was always horrible; however, in Sethe’s case, life as a slave was a living hell. Men repeatedly raped her, degraded her, and treated her like an animal. For example, at one time Schoolteacher, the owner of Sweet Home, instructed his nephews to “put [Sethe’s] human characteristics on the left; her animal ones on the right” (228). Nobody can endure this type of treatment. As a result, Sethe developed an extreme fear of Schoolteacher. This fear haunts Sethe, until she begins to obsess with her past and the possible return of Schoolteacher. This fear is justified when dreaded Schoolteacher returns to Sethe’s home to take her children into slavery. This scene shows the effect that Schoolteacher has on Sethe, as she, not only attempts to kill her children, but also, succeeds in murdering her youngest daughter. Sethe’s murder of her daughter, Beloved, becomes another dreaded memory that Sethe is forced to remember throughout her life. With the thoughts of rape and humiliation forever stuck in her mind, Sethe encounters even greater troubles that force her to look into the past.
The reawakening of Beloved and the...
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