Beloved and Don Quixote: Similarities in Themes and Characters
On reading Beloved by Toni Morrison and Don Quixote by Kathy Acker, there seem to be quite a few similarities in themes and characters contained in these texts, the most prevalent of which seems to be of love and language as a path to freedom. We see in Acker's Don Quixote the abortion she must have before she embarks on a quest for true freedom, which is to love. Similarly, in Morrison's Beloved, there is a kind abortion, the killing of Beloved by Sethe, which results in and from the freedom that real love provides. And in both texts, the characters are looking for answers and solutions in these "word- shapes" called language.
In Acker's Don Quixote, the abortion with which the novel opens is a precondition for surrendering the "constructed self." For Acker, the woman in position on the abortion table over whom a team of doctors and nurses work represents, in an ultimate sense, woman as a constructed object. The only hope is somehow to take control, to subvert the constructed identity on order to name oneself: "She had to name herself. When a doctor sticks a steel catheter into you while you're lying on your back and you to; finally, blessedly, you let go of your mind. Letting go of your mind is dying. She needed a new life. She had to be named" (Don Quixote 9-10). And she must name herself for a man become a man before the nobility and the dangers of her ordeals will be esteemed. She is to be a knight on a noble quest to love "someone other than herself" and thus to right all wrongs and to be truly free. In another of Acker's works she writes: "Having an abortion was obviously just like getting fucked. If we closed our eyes and spread our legs, we'd be taken care of. They stripped us of our clothes. Gave us white sheets to cover our nakedness. Let us back to the pale green room. I love it when men take care of me (Blood and Guts in High School 33). In Morrison's Beloved, Sethe has two "abortions." The first and most obvious is the act of infanticide in killing Beloved. The second "abortion" is Sethe "getting fucked" by the grave-digger. This abortion, like Acker's protagonist, creates a name. The name is Beloved a "word-shape" representing true love, or freedom.
For Sethe, to love also becomes a testament of freedom. For having been owned by others (like Acker's patriarchy) meant that her claim to love was not her own. She could not love her children, "love em proper in Kentucky because they wasn't [hers] to love" (Beloved 162). Paul D understands that "to get a place where you could love anything you choose
well now that was freedom" (Beloved 162), but he is also bound to his slave mentality to overcome his fear. He considers Sethe's unconditional love "risky": "For a used-to-be-slave woman to love anything that much was dangerous, especially if it was her children she had settled on to love" (Beloved 45). The far safer way was "to love just a little bit, so when they broke its back, or shoved it in a croaker sack, well, maybe you'd have a little love left over for the next one" (Beloved 45). It is this compromised love that even Baby Suggs accepted despite her magnificent sermon in the Clearing on loving one's self knowing that her slave master would take her children away. And it is this "weak love" that Paul D tells Sethe she must accept (a patriarchal love, as Acker might say). When Paul D tells her love is "too thick," however, Sethe insists that "Love is or it ain't. Thin love ain't no love at all" (Beloved 164). She believes in this pure love, the kind perhaps Acker's protagonist is looking for.
Also, like Acker's Don Quixote, Morrison shows, through the relationship between Sethe and Beloved, the dangerous potential of "free" love. Another similarity shown in Beloved is that freedom is always perilous it has the potential to be self-consuming. This love allows Sethe to commit infanticide as...
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