Beloved' Community Essay

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Toni Morrison’s Beloved encompasses the individual traumas and battles of several characters due to their experience and connection to slavery. Sethe, the novel's protagonist, has a deeply scarred past as a result of slavery, which poses an emotional roadblock with her daughter, Denver. Denver was born during her mother’s journey in escaping slavery. She spends a lot of her time in isolation at 124 Bluestone Road due to the deprivation of her mother’s love and care. Throughout the novel, she goes on to say that she “can’t live here” because no one speaks to them and that “nobody comes by” (Morrison 17). Her serenity is shattered when she learns what Sethe did to her sister and had intended in doing to her as well. Although, Denver is a rather resilient character as she encounters the most positive character development. The appearance of Beloved at 124 heralds the start of Denver's development. Her obsession with the spirit guides her to achieve a sense of purpose as well as reach a point of enlightenment that drives her to overcome her traumas.

One of Sethe’s traumas is the fact that she murdered her unnamed baby girl in her earlier years of motherhood. The baby’s spirit, referred to as Beloved, haunts the house of 124. The murder is essentially the genesis of Denver’s trauma, as the murder is her first and most devastating memory. It leaves her in a constant state of terror as she cannot help but feel that Sethe might assassinate her as well. Moreover, the lingering spirit of Beloved physically embodies the psychological traumas of Denver and her mother. The nature of Denver’s trauma is so ambiguous it leaves her questioning why she feels this way. Her trauma silences her and it is what makes her aloof. She lacks a sense of self because she only knows her mother’s past and stories. Hence why Denver is determined to keep Beloved in her life when she begins to take a physical form, as she has been living in isolation for a long time. Denver is pleased when Beloved is content since she desires another person to provide her purpose:

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Upstairs Beloved was dancing… Denver sat on the bed smiling and providing the music. She had never seen Beloved this happy. She had seen her pouty lips open wide with the pleasure of sugar or some piece of news Denver gave her. She had felt warm satisfaction radiating from Beloved’s skin when she listened to her mother talk about the old days. But gaiety she had never seen (Morrison 87).

Denver and Sethe’s brittle mother-daughter relationship results in Denver lacking a sense of her individuality. Through a Freudian lens, the lack of conversation between the two entails that they skipped the oral stage of psychosocial development in their relationship. It is crucial in a child’s growth because it affects the outcome of their personality and behavior. In this case, Denver is deprived of oral gratification in terms of communication with her mother. This further decipher the factors of Denver’s loneliness. Morrison distinguishes the trauma of Denver by stating that she “took her mother’s milk right along with the blood of her sister,” which reveals the relations between Denver and Beloved; the struggles of being Sethe’s daughter (Morrison 179). She conveys her emotional suffering through retrospective thinking: “I love my mother but I know she killed one of her daughters and tender as she is with me, I’m scared of her because of it” (Morrison 242). The fear of her mother continues to be instilled in her present life, as she is constantly in denial of her mother’s actions. Denver’s denial is justified as it is a common reaction to trauma. Correspondingly, Denver has a scarcity mindset given that as someone who experiences traumatization, she is accustomed to believing that she is not worthy of an abundance of anything. Morrison displays this through the repetition of hunger and food, as well as the use of imagery: “To go back to the original hunger was impossible. Luckily for Denver, looking was food enough to last. But to be looked at in turn was beyond appetite” (Morrison 139). Beloved, on a symbolic level, portrays the unavoidable, horrific history of slavery that has resurfaced to torment the present. Her presence, which becomes more malignant and invasive as the narrative develops, eventually sets the stage for Denver's emotional evolution. Furthermore, Morrison's pivot in Beloved's flagrant behaviors changes Denver. The baby's animosity for Sethe grows more ferocious: “I fixed it didn’t I? Didn’t I fix her neck? After you choked her neck. I kissed her neck. I didn’t choke it. The circle of iron choked it” (Morrison 119). Denver's disturbance towards Beloved leads to her awareness of the clashing issues between the two individuals she loves most. This meant no more rationalizing Sethe’s past murders, nor brushing off Beloved’s deceptive and destructive nature.

Because of Beloved, Denver went from doing the absolute most for the spirit to then transforming into an irrepressible and free-spirited young woman. Her personal growth is what makes her character so dynamic. Additionally, she begins to learn how much Beloved debilitates her mother. That very moment is when Denver recognizes that her family's survival is at her disposal. This gives her the courage to eventually leave the world of 124 and conquer her generational trauma. She has not left her home in over a decade and when she did, it would always be with the company of her mother. Denver leaving is a pivotal moment as she had always been dependent on her mother. It was also a huge accomplishment because she finally lets go of her attachment to Beloved. She returns to her home with a new role. In essence, she switches roles with her mother and becomes the primary caretaker of the family:

Not since Miss Lady Jones’ house have I left 124 by myself? Never. The only other times—two times and all—I was with my mother. Wants to see grandma baby put down next beloved, she’s my sister. The other time Paul D went to and when we came back I thought the house would still be empty from one heat through my sister’s ghost out. But no. When I came back to 124, there she was. Beloved. Waiting for me. Tired from her long journey back. Ready to be taken care of; ready for me to protect her (Morrison 243).

Denver takes on a job in helping the Bodwins which illustrates the independence she is beginning to grasp for the first time in her life (Morrison 299). Consequently, Denver is finally liberated from all the chaos once the community performs an exorcist on the spirit, Beloved.

Thus, Denver reaches her peak in character growth once Beloved leaves 124. This is because her journey in becoming an adult results in her stability as well as her ability to care for her mother. It is a victorious moment for her which leads to her success in conquering the intergenerational trauma she has been experiencing her whole life. Of course, it is not as if she completely erased it, rather she took control of her life. Overcoming traumatization means recognizing what is in the individual’s control and accepting the parts of their life they cannot dominate. For Denver, this means that she acknowledges that her trauma is the card that was dealt and that her future is entirely in her power. She is finally able to realize that it is her responsibility to get herself to heal. What makes her journey so positive and triumphant is that her ability to take control of her own life ends in her helping her mother heal as well. She becomes a symbol of hope for future generations.

The story of Beloved is Morrison’s intrinsic take on the emotional and physical strain brought by slavery. However, the individual struggles all share a common characteristic: finding a sense of ‘self.’ Trauma will inevitably ruin the development of a person, whether it is generational, chronic, complex, or acute. Alas, it leaves people with an identity crisis in a way because when an experience with something or someone results appallingly, it forms a grey area in one’s life. Following a traumatic experience, several people may encounter a trigger in their life that will pull them back into that grey area. That fallback immediately follows a reaction which is a coping mechanism for that trauma. There are numerous ways one may react to their traumas. Relating it to Denver, it can be seen that her trauma spurs from her mother’s trauma. This intergenerational trauma is the reason for her anger and low self-esteem. When her trauma is triggered she resorts to social hostility.

The story as a whole shines a light on the generational trauma found in the black community. Beloved presents the impacts of slavery and how it carries out through the bloodline of every former slave in the history of White America. This sort of strain found within the African-Americans ancestors has such a deep scar on the black community of today, as the history of black people carries so much suffering with violence and discrimination. On the contrary, white Americans carry a history filled with privilege and power, and that is the ‘deep scar’ that they made for themselves. Today, black Americans continue to fight for their rights because white people continue to hold a tremendous amount of privilege. This injustice is why racism can be found in almost every aspect of society. For instance, environmental racism and police brutality. These two examples are the consequences of slavery as a whole. This further supports the notion of the identity crisis found within the individuals in a community that deals with generational trauma. It is the daily struggles and consequences they have to face as a community, along with their the is going through motherhood, while Denver is in her coming-of-age stage in life. However, their personal traumas are outcomes of the greater trauma which is slavery.

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Beloved’ Community Essay. (2023, October 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 30, 2024, from
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