The Role of Trees in Beloved

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  • Topic: Cherry blossom, Trees, Tree
  • Pages : 5 (2014 words )
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  • Published : May 14, 2002
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times represent a unique calmness. Toni Morrison doesn't make any exceptions to this idea. In her novel Beloved, Toni Morrison uses trees to symbolize comfort, protection and peace. Morrison uses trees throughout Beloved to emphasize the serenity that the natural world offers. Many black characters, and some white and Native American characters, refer to trees as offering calm, healing and escape, thus conveying Morrison's message that trees bring peace. Besides using the novel's characters to convey her message, Morrison herself displays and shows the good and calmness that trees represent in the tree imagery in her narration. Perhaps Toni Morrison uses trees and characters' responses to them to show that when one lives through an ordeal as horrible as slavery, one will naturally find comfort in the simple or seemingly harmless aspects of life, such as nature and especially trees. With the tree's symbolism of escape and peace, Morrison uses her characters' references to their serenity and soothing nature as messages that only in nature could these oppressed people find comfort and escape from unwanted thoughts. Almost every one of Morrison's characters find refuge in trees and nature, especially the main characters such as Sethe and Paul D. During Sethe's time in slavery, she has witnessed many gruesome and horrible events that blacks endure such as whippings and lynchings. However, Sethe seemingly chooses to remember the sight of sycamore trees over the sight of lynched boys, thus revealing her comfort in a tree's presence: "Boys hanging from the most beautiful sycamores in the world. It shamed her- remembering the wonderful soughing trees rather than the boys. Try as she might to make it otherwise, the sycamores beat out the children every time and she could not forgive her memory for that" (6). Although Sethe wishes she would've remembered the boys instead, she probably rationalized this thought because when she asks Paul D about news of Halle, she pictures the sycamores instead of the possibility that Halle has been lynched: "‘I wouldn't have to ask about him would I? You'd tell me if there was anything to tell, wouldn't you?' Sethe looked down at her feet and saw again the sycamores" (8). When Schoolteacher whips Sethe, leaving her back leathery with scars, she refers to the scar as a chokecherry tree to soothe and to lessen the physically and emotional pain that the scar represents: "But that's what she said it looked like, A chokecherry tree. Trunk, branches and even leaves. Tiny little chokecherry leaves" (16). While Sethe thinks of trees to heal and calm her pain and suffering, Paul D directly looks for physically real trees as his escape from everyday slave life. During Paul D's time in slavery, he chose to love trees for their comfort and calm qualities: "... trees were inviting; things you could trust and be near; talk to if you wanted to as he frequently did since way back when he took the midday meal in the fields of Sweet Home" (21). Because of these qualities, Paul D chose one particular tree, larger and more inviting than other trees, to always return to. A tree which he named "Brother" and a tree that listened and comforted and was always there. But most importantly, Brother represents the comforting escape from slavery which Paul D didn't and doesn't have: "His choice he called Brother, and sat under it, alone sometimes. Sometimes with Halle or the other Pauls..." (21). After a long day working in the fields, Paul D would rest, often times under the towering but comforting presence of Brother with Halle, the Pauls and Sixo: "He, Sixo and both of the Pauls sat under Brother pouring water from a gourd over their heads..." (27). Not only do trees represent comfort, they also represent a place of security, a place for escape from slave life. When Sixo visits the Thirty-Mile Woman, he escapes into the secure woods before her master could catch him: "But Sixo had already melted into the woods before the lash...
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