I am Beloved’s

Oh, Beloved.  I reread it while sailing the Mediterranean these last few weeks.  It was a magical moment: sitting by the pool, music wafting over the deck, sun shining, enjoying a little light reading about baby blood and scars from slavery. Joking aside, it doesn’t matter if the book is light or not.  If you haven’t read it, my heart aches for you.  You simply have to.  There’s nothing like it.  Not even Toni Morrison has written anything like it.  The Bluest Eye was riveting, but was perhaps a bit too hard-hitting with the issues it presented.  Sula had the same kind of narrative power as Beloved, but it didn’t quite have the socio-historical commentary which packs so much punch.  Beloved does exactly what writers want so badly to be able to do the right way–present issues that move people, stories of pain and healing and injustice and revenge, and present them in such a nuanced way that they sneak up on you, horrify you, delight you, haunt you…

We had to read Beloved my junior year of high school.  (Parents were predictably outraged.)  After furiously counting on my fingers, then getting furious at my fingers because there weren’t enough of them for my purposes,  I finally have determined that it has been fifteen years since I last read Beloved.  Fifteen years of forgetting…

Was Sethe ever forgetting Beloved?  Not for a second. Beloved comes to the house needy, convinced she’s been rejected.  Yet every desparate second Beloved isn’t acknowledged, she believes she is forgotten; all it takes is a single moment that doesn’t revolve around her, and Beloved flies off the chain.  When Sethe finally begins to find some peace with Paul D–perhaps even move on from that traumatic incident in the barn, so  grotesquely foreshadowed by the vivid comparison of baby blood to hot oil–Beloved isn’t having it.  There is an amazing scene near the end in which it’s physically manifested how much Beloved feeds off of Sethe’s attention.  When a group of women from the town come to call out Beloved, she shows up at the window, fat, swollen, and shining.  Sethe appears next to her, anemic and shrunken.  It’s a reversal of their original states, and it’s a sign of Beloved’s endless hunger.

But what I would really like to examine is the motif of the tree in Beloved.  The scars on Sethe’s back from an unjust whipping take the shape of a tree.  She continually fights the image of her fellow workers hanging from trees.  Paul D becomes attached enough to a tree to give it the name “Brother.”  There’s a thread here (and the makings of an awesome paper if I hadn’t just gone and graduated).  I’ll figure it out by the next time I write, which should be relatively soon.

One response to “I am Beloved’s

  1. Pingback: The Road: Overview | In Litero: An Evaluation of Literature

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