This a mother of two daughters. Sethe’s relationship with

This passage is influential to the plot of the novel; not only does it foreshadow motifs and occurrences, set to take place later in the novel, but does so in an overt and memorable manner. At the core of the novel Beloved, it is a story centered around Sethe, a mother of two daughters. Sethe’s relationship with her youngest daughter Denver is drastically influenced by the reanimation of Sethe’s oldest daughter, who comes back to life in the form of a woman named Beloved. When Sethe successfully escaped her enslavement from Sweet Home, it was entirely due to her maternal initiative to deliver her newborn to safety and get to her other children. Sethe ultimately looks to her children for a sense of motivation, a sense of hope for the future, and a reason to live. Sethe has gone through extreme measures to ensure a better quality of life for both Beloved and Denver. In one instance you have Beloved, whose life Sethe took to prevent her child from becoming a slave, and in contrast to Beloved’s life story we hear the detailed story of the challenging events leading to Sethe finally giving birth to Denver. This contrast of illustrations on how Sethe secured the wellbeing of her children is confusing to Beloved. It is the reason for Sethe’s sense of guilt, and the root of Beloved’s jealousy and her reasoning to haunt 124.Beginning the passage, when Denver asks Beloved about her whereabouts prior to coming to 124( referencing what she assumes is the spirit world), Beloved compares it to the cramped understructure of a slave ship. She says that she came from a “hot” bridge of some sort, where “down there”, she stayed “in the dark” and “in the daytime” with no room to breathe. Even in death, the reader can assume that Beloved endured pain equivalent to the obstacles she might have faced in life. Her plight seems to be no better than the fate of a life in slavery; a life Sethe was trying to save Beloved from in the first place. When Denver asks Beloved, how and why she had returned to the physical world, Beloved says that she waited on a “bridge” in order to “To see” Sethe’s  “face.”. This bridge is actually the bridge between life and death, and the space that she was in, is the small grave that she was buried in, which explains why there was so little room to move. “It is the ultimate gesture of a loving mother. It is the outrageous claim of a slave”.(Toni Morrison) These are the words that Toni Morrison used to describe Sethe’s murder of her child Beloved. Sethe, a former slave woman, is aware of the horrors slavery can manifest; she chooses to kill her infant daughter in order to spare her from the physical, emotional, and spiritual terrors of a life spent in slavery. Sethe’s action is indisputably terrible; but ultimately Sethe’s decision to kill Beloved was made in an attempt to save her from Slavery, a fate that Sethe regarded as worse than death itself. This was certainly the most difficult choice Sethe had to make in her life. As the protective mother that Sethe is, it is her job to keep her children safe. A valid argument can be made, that the meaning of a protective mother is to never bring harm to her children. Although, in the face of immediate danger, Sethe’s maternal instincts told her that it wasn’t her job to know whether death or slavery was worse. For Sethe, it was her “job to know what is” dangerous for her children, “and to keep them away from what” she knew was “terrible”. This is a difficult point to argue against as a reader, but from Beloved’s standpoint as the affected infant of Sethe’s actions, understanding Sethe’s justification can be complicated especially when you were the only child subjected to this impulsive decision.Within the novel, testing the mental and emotional fortitude of mothers against the horrors of slavery is a recurring theme. In a number of tragic ways, slavery simply does not allow for Black women to partake in the natural loving nature of motherhood. On a basic level, the practice of slavery separates children from their mothers, a harsh reality that can be attested to by Sethe’s faint recollections of her own mother. Since it is so likely for a slave-woman to be separated from her children, it was unfortunately popular in the institution that was slavery to discourage and prevent mothers from forming strong emotional attachments to their children. The purpose of this was to alleviate the psychological consequences that come from losing a baby so that the slave women were more readily fit to do work in the fields sooner, or more likely to bear children safely. As Paul D described to Sethe, “to love anything that much was dangerous, especially if it was her children she had settled on to love.” The scene in which Sethe was violently robbed of her own breast milk, was so unimaginable to me, it took an outside conversation for the depiction of a woman being robbed of her very bodily capability to nurture her children, to simply process the literal meaning of the reading. Nonetheless, Sethe allowed her love to grow too thick, consequently causing all of the heartaches that were a result of her decision to kill her oldest daughter. The conflict between motherhood and slavery is perhaps one of the clearest central themes of the novel, and it is highlighted by Sethe’s murder of her own daughter. This act can be interpreted in two different ways. On the one hand, it can be interpreted as Sethe refusing to be a mother under slavery, because she knew that she would not be able to love her children with the compassion that a mother should; so in that case why be a mother at all. But on the other hand, it can also represent an act of the deepest motherly love; Sethe saving her children from having to endure slavery, believing that death is a better alternative On the other hand, we hear Denver telling the detailed story of the events leading to her birth. This story is a true testament to the lengths Sethe is willing to go for her children, even against all odds. Denver tells Beloved about how a poor white indentured servant girl named Amy found Sethe; a pregnant, bloodied and beaten runaway slave fleeing from Sweethome. After Amy cleaned the maze of wounds Paul D referred to as a “chokecherry tree” on Sethe’s feet, the two women spent the night in a lean-to shelter. The next morning, Amy helped Sethe limp down to the river, where they found a boat to take them across the river into free territory. Unfortunately, immediately after Sethe stepped into the boat, she went into labor; Amy then helped Sethe deliver the baby and recover from labor. Later that evening, Amy left Sethe waiting by the riverbank for a chance to cross the river to Ohio; that newborn baby was named Denver after Amy Denver, the woman who helped bring her to life.Prior to Beloved’s first appearance back in 124, Denver was very attached to her mother. Denver and Sethe have a unique relationship. Sethe cares very much for her daughter Denver, but more in a protective way rather than a motherly way. This caused Denver to cling to Sethe in the hopes of motherly affection. Although, when Beloved returns, Denver feels an almost immediate attachment to her. This can be attributed to how Denver had “swallowed her blood right along with her mother?s milk.” Denver acts as a motherly-type of figure towards Beloved with a strong desire to protect and care for her. However, in the following chapters after this passage, their relationship is portrayed blatantly to be purely one-sided. While Denver has her eyes on Beloved, Beloved is occupied with regaining the love of Sethe, after lost time. The difference between Beloved and Denver’s life stories, is that Denver’s birth is a captivating and heartfelt story that illustrates the difficulties Sethe is willing to go through for her children. The odd defying feats Sethe accomplishes to bring life to Denver, completely contrast the seemingly effortless and impulsive action of Sethe killing Beloved. This is what initiates Beloved’s specific jealousy towards Denver. Denver is the youngest daughter of Sethe, about 18 years old. Because of her youthfulness and lack of another female role model, Denver has idolized Sethe her entire life. Denver attempt to do everything in the way Sethe does. She imitates all things pertaining to Sethe’s character. The way Sethe walks, laughs, talks, and dresses. By imitating Sethe, the reader understands the impact she has on her children.”Dressed in Sethe’s dresses… She imitated Sethe, talked the way she did, laughed her laugh, and used her body the same way down to the walk, the way Sethe moved her hands… (241)”This posed a problem for Beloved because she couldn’t get rid of one of Sethe’s beloved children, as easily as she could get rid of Paul D. So Beloved made life at 124 unbearable for Denver, by enacting a tactic that worked as Beloved’s ultimatum. Essentially Beloved forced Denver to decide, whether to let Beloved have Sethe to herself or to allow Beloved to kill Sethe. Beloved consumed so much food, that it pushed Sethe to the brink of starvation. Despite the burden Beloved laid upon Sethe, Sethe dealt with it because it is simultaneously was saving her from her past. Beloveds return has allowed Sethe to make peace with her past, it has given Sethe a second chance to be a mother to her children, and it has given Sethe hope for her own future and not simply for her kids. She rememories the stories that she had disremembered so that she may truly let them go and look towards the future. Although, Sethe is willing to endure the burden Beloved has forced upon her, Denver is forced to leave the house if she wants to survive. For an instant Beloved had won; she had gotten rid of everyone in the house and 124 was solely occupied by her and Sethe. Unfortunately, for Beloved, this plan was only temporary, because Denver left the house with intentions to find help to rid her mother of the energy draining force that was Beloved. Beloved’s eighteen years without a maternal figure, she tries to compensate for lost time all at once when she comes back into the physical world. This is toxic for Sethe because she attempts to overcompensate for her grievances against Beloved, to the point where Beloved is taking away her vitality while growing larger. After Beloved hears Denver’s story of Sethe’s act of heroism, to “save” Denver’s life, she contrasts it with her own; a story of Sethe killing Beloved, to “save her life”. It is comprehensible that Beloved, the ghostly reanimation of an irrational infant, would manifest a type of jealousy towards Denver’s life and resultant relationship with Sethe. It is for this reason, we can assume that in this passage, Beloved manifests her agenda to haunt 124, and systematically isolate Sethe from her loved ones, out of jealousy.


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