Opinion Based Papers
Over the last five years, I have written many papers that didn’t require any research or quotable material aside from the primary source. These include analysis of some of my favorite literary works such as Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and also Beloved by Toni Morrison.
Tony Morrison’s Beloved is a fictional story that is based on the real-life experiences of Margaret Garner. It explores her psyche and how she would have felt before and after the murder of her child through the character of Sethe. It dissects the motivations that would prompt a mother to kill her own child. The novel also delves into the relationship between mother and living child when the dead one just will not release the parent from the past.
Rememory is the term used by Sethe to describe what happens when an individual experiences the past of someone else’s history. Specifically, Sethe is worried about how Denver will be affected by Sethe’s history at Sweet Home. Sethe tells Denver that she must never go there, because, even if the house is long gone, it will still haunt her. The life her mother lived while on that land is not Denver’s private history. She never lived it. Sethe told her stories of her life there, but Denver never lived as a slave. That is the public history of her mother and her mother’s people, but it has the power to hurt her still. That is why Sethe tells Denver never to go to Sweet Home.
A Response to Toni Morrison’s Beloved.
Intersectionality is the connection between the aspects of a person’s identity, and Sethe is unable to define her identity because of the disparate roles she has performed. She is a mother, a daughter-in-law, a wife, a woman, a black woman, a former slave, and a child murderer. She committed prolicide and it created a vacuum inside of her. She cannot codify the part of herself that is a loving mother with the part of herself that killed her child. Regardless of motive or intent, Sethe killed her Beloved and that puts her at odds with her own self-image.
Sethe has not owned her “freed self” yet in this book. She is free, but she has not claimed ownership of her freed self. She says that the one time she made plans the price was too high. She means when she and her children escaped from Sweet Home and it resulted in the death of her child. Now she is afraid to plan or make decisions. The act of making choices for oneself is the first sign of true freedom. Sethe does not show true autonomy, because she is afraid of making plans and choices for herself and her family. Without autonomy, is a person truly free?
Denver is Sethe’s living daughter and her experiences are juxtaposed with Sethe’s so that the difference in their emotional upbringing is made clear. Sethe was a slave when she was a young girl, whereas Denver has never known slavery. Sethe was treated with a form of sexual idolatry when she came into her womanhood. Denver discovers herself while alone and hiding in the woods. Sethe is surrounded by people. Denver has the company of her mother and a ghost. Sethe grew up with the anxiety and fear of being owned by someone who can do whatever they want to their property. Denver is fearless. These are two women connected by blood and a shared home, but they are different women.
How does the ghost of Beloved influence Sethe’s journey towards self-actualization? Has she reached it yet? Does the ghost present an obstacle?