Feminism in Beloved

Topics: Slavery, Slavery in the United States, KILL Pages: 5 (1509 words) Published: June 28, 2008
A Feminist Outlook on Maternal vs. Paternal Instincts in Beloved

Since the beginning of time, the mother and child relationship has differed greatly from the father and child relationship. Though both parents love their child greatly, both parents dare not cross certain boundaries. The limitations of protection for a mother are far different from paternal limitations. In her novel, Beloved, Morrison introduces the subject of infanticide, and explores the differences in justification between men and women. The following will discuss the limitations of parental protection. It will explore the contrast of ideals between male and female parenting in relation to Beloved.

The novel Beloved tells a story of a young woman who has escaped her plantation, "Sweet Home" to save herself and her children. Sethe, an ex-slave, sent her three children to Ohio through the Underground Railroad. Later she made her way there with her newborn child. After 28 days of freedom, her former slave owner, Schoolteacher, along with the sheriff, came to recapture her. To prevent her children from living in the same "hell" she went through, she did the only thing she felt would save them. She killed her older daughter, Beloved, and attempted to kill her two sons. As she began to kill her younger daughter, Denver, she was stopped by Stamp Paid, a former slave and friend. This horror prevented the slave owner from recapturing Sethe and her children. For 18 years, she lived with the guilt of killing Beloved and received the "haunt" of her daughter's disapproval.

Sethe was married, before her escape, to a fellow slave named Halle. Unfortunately, she had not seen her husband since her escape, and assumed he was dead. Halle's best friend, Paul D, had also not been seen since the escape. Suddenly, after 18 years of absence, he appeared at Sethe's front door. Immediately they began to rekindle memories of life at Sweet Home, and the horrible night of escape. Yearning for affection, Sethe and Paul D became instant companions. Paul D moved in with Sethe and they became a family.

One day, Paul D announced that he and Sethe had decided to have a baby. He was relieved that he had finally settled down with a woman he had wanted for years. He came across his friend Stamp Paid and told him the good news. Unfortunately, Stamp Paid was not thrilled. He pulled out a newspaper clipping that told the story of Sethe's past. Sethe had been jailed for killing one child and attempting to kill her other children. In total disbelief, Paul D approached Sethe to find out if the clipping was true. It was then that she began to discuss her reasons for killing her child. Paul D disapproved of Sethe's reasons and left her.

Sethe's proposed protection could have greatly been contributed to "maternal instinct". This prompted her to do what she felt was best for her child. According to Lowell General Hospital, maternal instinct is defined as" something beyond the caregiving duty that produces responsiveness…" For years it has been brought into question whether men are less perceptive parents than women. In addition, the question is posed whether this instinct is natural or learned. While in the womb, the mother has the opportunity to bond with the child well before the father. Through the child's movement while in the womb, the mother begins to realize that someone is living through her. She also realizes that the child's only route of survival is through her. The mother is aware of the child's dependency and this carries over well into the child's life. It is for this reason that at the time of birth, the father may feel left out. He has not had the opportunity to experience what the mother and child have already developed. Whether or not maternal instinct is natural or learned, the mother has ample time to develop this attachment to her child.

It is the natural instinct of a parent to save the life of their child. Regardless of whether you are a mother or a father, the...
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