Beloved' by Toni Morrison: Literary Analysis Essay

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“Beloved,” was written by Toni Morrison in 1987 and it is based on a true story. This difficult and gruesome novel tells the story of Margaret Garner, a young mother, who escaped from slavery. She was arrested for killing one of her children, attempting to kill all, rather than let them return to slavery. In her twisted way, she demonstrates her love for her children by wanting to end their lives rather than return them to life-long misery. Through the effective development of characterization and point of view, the author reveals the main theme to be the psychological impacts of slavery.

Now, each character is developed based on their traumas of slavery or their pasts. Sethe’s presence is a clear influence, and the catalyst, that recovers the repressed pasts of all those around her. From a historical perspective, the experiences of slavery triggered most slaves into repressing their memories in an attempt to forget their pasts. It is easy to tell that this is the case with Sethe. She is haunted and fears her past; however, she is completely devoted to her children and believes that “keeping her [children] from the past that was waiting for [them] was all that mattered” (Morrison 51). While reading this novel it is easy for the reader to question Sethe’s actions. Progressively, it becomes clear that Sethe’s “actions have caused others to respond, both physically and psychologically, therefore complicating their lives” (Larrick 1). The question also arises as to whether Sethe’s actions can be justified due to the physical and psychological scars of slavery that she bears. Sethe lives by constantly attempting to repress the memories that haunt her, “she worked hard to remember as close to nothing as was safe” (Morrison 6). Her experiences were so horrifying that she could not physically or mentally withstand the memories. For this same reason, Seth refused to allow her children to go through the same thing that she did. She believed that slavery and all the traumas that come with it are worse than death itself. Seth reveals it herself in an attempt to justify her actions by stating that “if she hadn't killed [Beloved] she would have died and that is something [Sethe] could not bear to happen to [Beloved]” (Morrison 236). In Sethe’s mind, killing her children was a way of freeing them through death and the ultimate expression of a mother’s true love.

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