Levy was ultimately right in his suggestion that "virtually every major character in Beloved attempts to tell the story of Sethe's infanticide of Beloved and her subsequent resurrection in a manner that confers power ... or at least ensures the continued survival of an embattled black community." This can be seen most specifically in memories, thoughts, and conversations of the characters Sethe, Baby Suggs, Denver, Paul D and Beloved. It seems Morrison shows the inherent power struggles of self that is linked to continuation of the black community through telling the story multivocally. Each voice explores the infanticide and resurrection differently and subsequently reveals different aspect of power of self. Morrison explores this using a range of narrative and literary techniques, including magic realism, shifting focalization, free indirect discourse, while continually moving between the present time and times in the past.
Perpetrator of the multivocally told story of infanticide and therefor an outsider to the black community, Sethe places her sense and power of self in Beloved’s resurrection. Prior to Beloved’s arrival, Sethe believed “the future was a matter of keeping the past at bay.” The story of the infanticide was one Sethe “could never close in, pin it down for anybody who had to ask.” So Morrison focalizes the story of the infanticide with most detail through the schoolteacher. Sethe instead tells stories of her past to Beloved, such as Denver’s birth and her mother’s death, even though “every mention of her past life hurt her.” In this way, Sethe’s self convictions, her power of self, is slowly worn down and transferred to Beloved. Her life became one based on fulfilling Beloved’s every demand as she tried to “talk, explain, describe how much she had suffered, been through, for her children.” As Travis proposes, “the novel explores the conflicts of Sethe's love for her children.” It is this love that leads her to betray her beliefs of the past. It is not until the black community, encouraged by Denver and the sense that “The future was sunset; the past something to leave behind. And if it didn’t stay that way, well, you might have to stomp it out”, that Sethe was pulled from such an environment. This act taken on by the black community is one that ensures it’s ongoing survival, including all members of the community to belong.
Morrison also achieves an exploration of power through the voice of Baby Suggs, Baby Suggs, who can be viewed as the moral centre of the novel. Once holding a powerful sense of self that is entrenched by the black community, she is lost when abandoned by the community. Morrison, using shifting focalization, gives the reader insight into the position and power Baby Suggs once held in the black community. A power that enabled the two floored house of 124 to be a “cheerful, buzzing house where Baby Suggs, holy, loved, cautioned, fed, chastised and soother” the community. As Sethe remembers Baby Suggs and her Sundays in the Clearing, the narration shifts from her perception to a monologue of Baby Suggs. “Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ... You got to love it, you!” Yet the power held by this “unchurched preacher” dissipates soon after the feast at 124, due to the “reckless generosity on display at 124.” This internal struggle of the black community to accept such lavishness, such a show of over abundance, leaves them, the community, angry. An internal black struggle that is representative of the wider black struggle in an ultimately white world of the time. As Hison notes of Beloved, “The community denies its propensity to focus its anger and humiliation on its weaker members. The community represses and is unable to identify the violence, white oppression, that is the root of its collapse and entrapment in cycles of violence.” The day Baby Suggs died, she tells Sethe and Denver of the lesson...
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