A myth is simply a way for humans to orient themselves in the world. Why did Sethe kill her own daughter and not think twice before doing it? What made that thought even cross her mind, an action that took her daughter away from her forever? It may be hard to understand this from ones point of view. Toni Morrison, in the novel Beloved, uses the character Beloved to function as a mythic archetype in the society to help the reader understand things and answer complex questions in the book, like Sethe’s actions and why she did what she did. Archetypes represent universal patterns of human nature. In Beloved, the character Beloved is the anima; she is a projection of the other characters’ desires. To Sethe, Beloved comes to her with the aim of waking her up and to make her see the real world around her. Morrison uses Beloved as a mythic archetype to explain the reasons behind the actions African American slaves take, and to show how slavery and the effects of it will always exist in the world, no matter how hard people try to forget.
Morrison uses Beloved to help explain to the reader why Sethe tried to kill her children, and how it was only an act of love and not an act of hatred or craziness. Sethe killed Beloved in fear of her children returning to slavery and having to live a life like hers when she was a slave. “I couldn’t let all that go back to where it was, and I couldn’t let her nor any of em live under schoolteacher. That was out” (Morrison192). Sethe thought anything would be better than letting her kids live as slaves for someone like schoolteacher. “She just flew. Collected every bit of life she had made, all the part of her that were precious and fine and beautiful, and carried, pushed, dragged them through the veil, out, away, over there where no one could hurt them. Over there. Outside this place, where they would be safe” (Morrison 192).To let schoolteacher take her children would be letting him destroy everything good in herself, all the “life” she made.Yet no one understood why that thought would even cross Sethe’s mind. Not even former slaves that lived near her and went through similar situations. All the people in town ignored Sethe after this and acted as if she didn’t exist anymore. For example, Ella, one of Sethes old friends says, “I ain’t got no friends take a handsaw to their own children” (Morrison 221). They thought she was crazy. So a person reading this book who didn’t go through anything similar to Sethe’s experience will have a hard time understanding what and why Sethe did too. So Beloved helps get this through to the reader. Beloved returns, and once Sethe realizes it is her daughter, she goes all out to try to make it up to her. “And instead of looking for another job, Sethe played all the harder with Beloved: lullabies, new stitches, the bottom of the cake bowl, the top of the milk. If the hen had only two eggs, she got both” (Morrison 282). This shows how Sethe did love her daughter. She still loves her, and it also shows that the reason behind killing her was only out of fear and love. Sethe was a slave for most of her life and she knows what it is like. There was no way she would want her own children to have to go through all of the things she went through and experienced, and maybe even worse. “‘I took and put my babies where they’d be safe’” (Morrison 193). She tried to kill her children as a way to put them out of the misery of living life as slaves. The character Beloved acted as a way to show the reader how much Sethe really loves her children and how she would do anything to protect them. Sethe is traumatized from her past of being a slave and going through that experience, and that was why she would do anything to protect her kids from having a life like hers; a life as a slave. Even if it meant killing them. “..if she thought anything, it was No. No. Nono. Nonono” (Morrison192). Sethe’s actions were driven by her past; she knew how it is like to be a slave...
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