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Beloved by Toni Morrison Novel Analysis

Beloved by Morrison is brimming with sentiment and feeling. The spectrum of human emotions is represented from fear and anger to tension and passion for loving in its many manifestations, from maternal love to romantic love to the love of freedom itself. This brief analytical essay looks at how the story ends well for the protagonist Sethe and how the novel’s many depictions of love ultimately aid her recovery from her past trauma.

The novel’s ending is ambiguous and open to interpretations, but it could be argued that it turns out well for Sethe in the end. Ultimately, she was able to release herself from Beloved’s control in a violent sequence in which she has mistaken Bodwin for a slave hunter and attempted to attack him with an ice pick. With Paul D’s reappearance, Sethe can reassess her life and realize her importance after the disappearance of Beloved. Sethe can only break free from the past’s stifling grip and start living a life of freedom, serenity, and responsibility in the present by facing it squarely and asserting herself in its presence.

In terms of how love is portrayed, one might say that in Toni Morrison’s Beloved, the characters who desire love typically pay a high price for doing so. Sethe’s first decision to murder her daughter Beloved to save her from slavery is an example of this ferocious devotion. This act of violence ultimately destroys Sethe’s health and happiness at the novel’s conclusion because of her guilt over her murder. Love in Beloved has sadistic characteristics and has the potential to cause death.

Sethe uses the analogy of freedom and love in the book, saying, “To get to a place where you could love anything you chose–not to need permission for desire– well now, that was freedom” (Morrison 191). In her relationship with her daughter Beloved, Sethe exercises this independence. At the novel’s outset, it is revealed that Sethe killed Beloved out of maternal love for her daughter, freeing her from servitude. An act like this demonstrates that love can be lethal, and the killer will have to face the consequences of her actions when her daughter returns from wherever she goes. With the return of Beloved, Sethe’s troubled history starts to have a bearing on her present.

Sethe’s love for Beloved starts hurting her in Chapter 26. For reasons of shame on Sethe’s part, Beloved regresses to a dependent and spoiled toddler. Beloved always expects more from her mother, and nothing Sethe does is ever good enough. Sethe’s strength waned as Beloved’s influence increased: “The bigger Beloved got, the smaller Sethe became; the brighter Beloved’s eyes, the more those eyes that used never to look away became slits of sleeplessness” (Morrison 294-295). Sethe’s second daughter, Denver, realizes that her mother’s anguish stems from her guilt for murdering Beloved: “Sethe was trying to make up for the handsaw; Beloved was making her pay for it” (Morrison 295). Later in the chapter, Ella and Janey discuss how Sethe’s love for Beloved ultimately kills her.

Works Cited

Morrison, Toni. Beloved. Vintage Classics, 2020.

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