Sethe , a Slave to Her Past
Beloved by Toni Morrison is a vivid picture of the cruelty of slavery. It is a novel that depicts the horrifying practicies of enslavement in the early Nineteenth Century in the United States of America. It is a depiction of the horrible conditions under slavery and the dehumanization suffered by human beings when they are owned by other human beings. Beloved is a story of a black woman's struggle to overcome her past memories which are bounded with torture, such memories didn't only ruin her past ; but also spoilt her present life .
America during the Ninteenth was a place where all privilages were given to the white people , black people were brought from Africa by ships to cultivate lands and be slaves to the whites. That's why Morrison chooses Sethe as a character representative of a whole generation suffered from the set backs of slavery and of being blacks brought to a community where all rights are given to whites and no others.
In 1873 slavery was abolished in Cincinnati, Ohio for ten years. This is the setting where Morrison places the characters for her powerfully moving novel, Beloved. After the Emancipation Proclamation and after the Civil War , Sethe the mother who murdered her child in order to protect her from a lifetime of humiliation has yet to know the real meaning of freedom.
The novel starts with Sethe's life at 124, the house which is haunted by her murdered daughter's ghost. Although noticing this fact might thrills the reader, nevertheless you find out that the characters of the novel are coping with this ghost .So that you can see Sethe and her daughter Denver are leading their lives normally , moreover they enjoy having this spiritual guest with them. This incident is justified through Denver's words:
" She is the only other companion I have".
This explains why both Sethe and Denver wanted Paul D. out of their lives because his presence discomfort the ghost although he is the only acquaintenance they know in this area , and the only person who remained from Sweet Home who shared with Sethe the cruelty of slavery .
" She is mine , ..she came back to me of her own free will Paul D ran her off so she has no choice but to come back to me in flesh" Sethe as a black slave could not emancipate herself from the dark memories that kept on chasing her even after these long years of freedom. The most terrible of them all is the murder of her child Beloved, this horrible crime that pursued her and destructed her life. Being a slave to her memories Sethe could not overcome this sense of guilt towards her baby although she sees that did this terrible crime to save the baby from a lifetime dehumanised life she has once lived .
" How if I hadn't killed her she would have died and that is something I could not bear to happen to her."
Sethe was greatly hurt with what she faced when she was at Sweet Home, she was taken away from her mother - she does not even know who her mother is " Nun had to nurse whitebabies and me too because Ma,am was in the rice. The little whitebabies got it first and I got what was left.Or none.There was no nursing milk to call my own.", even when she decided to marry Halle , she could not wear a white dress as the rest of the brides do , she could not even celebrate this wedding. What was more abusing to her pride was when she overheard the schoolteacher telling his nephews his scientific measuring of the slaves' body parts and asking them to put Sethe's human characteristics in one column and her animal characteristics in another. Sethe was horrified and was somehow shamed, too shamed to tell Halle about what she had heard.
This is the life that she did not want her children to live; that is why she wanted to kill them all, but she failed to do so except with Beloved. Although Sethe is a victim to the society she lives in, nevertheless,...