Freud’s Psychoanalysis Of Characters In The Novel Beloved

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Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved used a number of theoretical perspectives including psychoanalysis. Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality argues that human behavior is the result of the interactions among the three component part of the mind. These components include id, ego, and superego. Using the psychoanalytic theory, Beloved can be analyzed as a character, a source of displacement and defense mechanism of denial. As a result of the traumatic events throughout the novel, Toni Morrison focuses on the significance of 124 Bluestone Road. Sethe, Denver, and Paul D subconsciously uses denial to help them move on in life.

The house at 124 Bluestone Road affected Sethe, Paul D and Denver through its action of the character Beloved. “…If you go there - you who never was there - if you go there and stand in the place where it was, it will happen again; it will be there for you, waiting for you” (Morrison, 18). Sethe believes that past trauma will continue to re-enact themselves for an unlimited and unspecified period of time. She sees the past as a physical presence, something that is “there” to fill that space. Paul slowly moves out of 124 because he lead to suspect that Beloved was using some kind of supernatural to play with his mind and body. “But she moved him nonetheless, and Paul D didn’t know how to stop it because it looked like he was moving himself. Imperceptibly, down right reasonably, he was moving out of 124” (Morrison, 57). Denver sees 124 as a fort because she constantly feels the need to lookout for her mother. “…there sure is something in her that makes it all right to kill her own (Morrison, 102). As the people around her abandon her she lives in final because of her mother’s actions. Freud’s topographical model is important when analyzing the unconscious aspect of these characters. According to Quinodoz, “the psychoanalyst looks for the repressed unconscious wish that is fulfilled in the dream; ‘a dream,’ Freud writes, ‘is the (disguised) fulfillment of a (suppressed or repressed) wish’” (Quinodoz, 19). For Sethe, her rememorizes have been repressed by her unconscious but at the same time suppressed by her conscious. As a result of traumatic events, symptoms occur a way of coping. As a symptom, Freud has speculated that neuroses is one. Beloved symbolized the dark side or shadow of Sethe’s nature.

Displacement is related to the psychoanalytical aspect, but can also be protruded as metaphorical. The psychological definition of displacement is a “defense mechanism in which negative feelings are transferred from the original source of the emotion to a less threatening person or object (Cherry). This is the theory that explains Sethe’s actions of illusion of Beloved. She represents the daughter Sethe killed in order to cope with her memories of the act. It is also for her to feel the pain related to killing a child within a year of birth.

The haunting of 124 Bluestone Road from a psychoanalytic perspective is to haunt the reader into a psychological state, getting them to use all their senses. Morrison uses diction, imagery and metaphorical devices to get her readers to use their senses. Sethe and Denver interact with the baby’s ghost as they live in the house. Baby Suggs observed, “every house wasn’t like the one on Bluestone Road. Suspended between the nastiness of life and the meanness of the dead” (Morrison, 1). The baby’s ghost of the house represented the unconscious of Sethe and Denver. From Freud perspective, Sethe suffered from “traumatic neuroses” to show that she has repressed her memories of the death of her child into her unconscious. Sethe repressed the memory of her infanticide in categories to deal with the psychic effects that it played in her life. Sethe was forced to work through with living with her daughter because the past can not repressed in the unconscious mind.

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Denver perspective of the haunting was different from Sethe. She had her own demons that she had to work with. “For a baby she throws a powerful spell” (Morrison, 2). In the haunted house, the spirt was company in her lonely existence in the haunted house. This shows that she was a psychological prisoner. The house was a place where Denver could grow psychological because she gained hearing from her mother’s re-memories about the past. Denvers starting point is in 124. Sethe explained that nothing bad can happen to Denver since she was able to call upon her mother, Amy Denver. She also survived the horrific event when Schoolteacher arrived. She was free and would eventually gain the knowledge from her mother’s re-memories. Her traumatic past gave her the tools to help her overcome of her at 124 and eventually start a life of her own.

In Paul D past life as a slave, he is traumatized from his psychological emasculation. He wanted a life with Sethe when he arrived at 124. He immediate assume that his job was to protect and desires whenever he wanted. In the makeshift exorcise, he drives out the spirt. This temporarily serves Sethe from her daily work of repressing the past this baby ghost. His arrival is a sign for hope in the future. He locks up his own unconscious shadows and past demons in a “tobacco tin buried in his chest where a red heart used to be” (Morrison, 36). He wander for year not being able to stay in one place because was afraid to be brought into slavery again. When he reach 124 with Sethe, he wanted to settle down and create a family of his own. Beloved supernaturally forced him out of Sethe’s house and moves him to a room outside 124. Paul D and Sethe has to take down ghost of their past ignorer to love each other. Paul D manhood was damage and was too weak to stand up to his past, but he was able to find his way back to Sethe. He was able to overcome his issue by asking Sethe to have a baby with him to prove that he is a man, but he did not admit to the flaws in her personality. With the help of Denver and the women of the community, Paul D was able to make a reappearance and fulfill his love to Sethe.

Denial as a defense mechanism is used unconsciously by those who want to avoid dealing with painful situations or actions that they do not want to admit. Sethe wanted freedom for her and her children. She gained freedom, but not from her mind because she is constantly being haunted by Beloved. The Garners, the owners of the plantation, are considered liberal slaveholders. Salves are taught how to manage the plantation rather than beaten or tortured. Black slaves are consider to be different than white people. As a results of her days as a slave in Sweet Home plantation, Sethe suffers from repression because she choices to kill her own kids than to put them through slavery. After she killed her kids she began to isolate herself and her daughter from the outside world so that she wouldn’t remember what she did. As Sethe continues to live in the present, she does not plan for the future. The future to Sethe is “a matter of keeping the past at bay” (Morrison, 21). This defense mechanism helps Sethe to live with out any burden of the tragic memories and the guilty feelings of kill her own child. She accepts the guilt that she left Beloved behind and asks her for she forgiveness. She wished to explain her reasoning, but there was no effect: “Sethe was trying to make up for the handsaw; Beloved was making her pay for it” (Morrison, 124). Sethe did not totally want Beloved forgiveness because she was guilty for what she had done to her. She wanted to be punished and suffered from depression after the disappearance of Beloved. Sethe acknowledge her feeling because she was hurt since her mother did the same thing she did. She can heal from her past when she finally accept her guilt from her past and is able to look forward to the future.

The Schoolteacher represented a typical brutal masculine colonizer because he treated the slaves a sub-humans. He tried making them believe that they were inferior and also played a central role in Sethe’s psychology repression. After the death of Mrs. Garner, and the arrival of Schoolteacher, her Sweet Home became a plantation where slaves were touted and treated terribly. Sethe escaped sending her children ahead of her to her mother-in-laws’s. Sethe was raped and her breast milk was taken by the Schoolteacher’s nephew. The rape did bother her, but it was the violation of her humanity and her role as a mother. Sethe uses repression so that she can cope with the anxiety of losing her sense of self. Sethe could not accept the same fate for her children, so she decided: “no notebook for my babies and no measuring string neither” (Morrison, 98). Paul D observed “schoolteacher arrived to put things in order” (Morrison, 4). This showed how the Schoolteachers actually treated their slaves. They lost their identities under his rule.

We can use Freud’s psychoanalytic theory to analyze Beloved. Slavery was a hard time, and it is hard to live a normal life when there is a constant reminder of the traumatizing past. Sethe, Paul D, and Denver all suffered because they were constantly being haunted by Beloved after she was killed. Beloved comes back to haunt them because she wants her to learn from their mistakes and to move on in the future with a clean slate. They all had a hard time moving forward because of the constant haunting by Beloved’s spirit. The haunting of a spirit can cause someone to act out and have behavioral issues, as shown through Sethe, Paul D and Denver.

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Freud’s Psychoanalysis Of Characters In The Novel Beloved. (2021, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 22, 2024, from
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