Of Conversations and Rebellious Brains: an Analysis of the Pivotal Conversation Between Paul D and Sethe in Morrison’s Beloved

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Monica Mishra Period 7 Letter

Of Conversations and Rebellious Brains:
An Analysis of the Pivotal Conversation between Paul D and Sethe in Morrison’s Beloved In a world plagued with insecurity and never-ending doubt, the only redeeming solution lies in the art of conversation. Multipurpose and inescapable, conversations follow humanity everywhere, no matter the time, age, or place. The general camaraderie and beneficial ideas that arise due to conversations with a variety of diverse thinkers, undeniably shapes the world and moves it on the path of progress. However, just as with anything in this Pandora’s Box corrupted world, conversation can also result in a litany of dark and horrible consequences as evidenced in Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Through Sethe, Beloved’s protagonist, and Paul D’s conversation in which he reveals dark secrets about her past, the tangibly negative consequences of conversation are demonstrated. This conversation is so achingly vital to Toni Morrison’s Beloved not only because it serves as a turning point in Sethe’s relationship with Halle, herself, and Beloved, but also because it explores the concept of Sethe’s “rebellious brain” (83) which stands as a metaphor for an oppressive white society that eventually leads to Sethe’s downfall. The tragic conclusion to the inevitably doomed relationship between Halle and Sethe that arises from Sethe’s conversation with Paul D severely tarnishes her perception of Halle and has broader negative implications for Sethe’s perception of her own future as well. Before this conversation, Halle represented an idyllic relationship to Sethe; compassionate, generous, and family oriented, Baby Suggs describes him as “too good for the world” (245). This very disposition that made him too good, and an “angel man” (246) gave Sethe a reason to believe in a present and a future that echoed of humanity and happiness in Sweet Home, and later in 124. Though it had been more than eighteen years since he abandoned Sethe, it was the promise of a brighter future with him that kept her subconsciously waiting for him (“If he was anywhere near here, he’d come to Baby Suggs, if not me” (82)), until Paul D revealed his butter smearing actions spurred by his witness to her rape. After recovering from her initial shock

Monica Mishra Period 7 Letter that he had actually been present, Sethe struggles to justify Halle’s refusal or inability to defend her virtue (“He saw them boys do that to me and let them keep on breathing air?” (81)), which further breaks down the unquestionable love she believed she possessed for Halle. This transgression impacts Sethe so greatly, because most significantly, in Sethe’s mind, Halle stood as an infallible savior that could someday rescue her from the horrors of her present, unscathed by the white oppression that weakened her, and sweep her away to a better future. Knowing that he was not strong enough to bear the evils she had faced forces Sethe to understand that she is truly alone, and her independence is the sole object standing between her own sanctity and ruin by white oppression. As Sethe reevaluates the perceived happiness in her relationship with Halle, her conversation with Paul D also forces Sethe to reconsider her own present happiness, which results in her startling conclusion to break free from the unpleasant memories and attempt to find a new future for herself. All her life Sethe has been designated to serve others. From consistently obeying her mother to her unwavering service to Mrs. Garner (she even dropped her crawling already? baby on the ground to run to Mrs. Garner’s aid), Sethe has known only a life of making others happy, rather than seeking her own felicity. Yet this conversation proves to be a turning point in this thinking, as it allows Sethe to challenge her previously held notion of not actively seeking out self happiness. With her preconceived ideas of Halle and his strength being shattered, Sethe comes into her newfound...
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