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❶Garland Reference Library of the Humanities; vol. This may be why this theme continues to come up in the story.

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by Toni Morrison
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AL laugh For a long time, I think we found that with our parents, the older survivors, they had really hard time talking about it even to their children so we lived for the last thirty years of so, we lived really in silence, you know, and whatever we may overheard the adults speaking among themselves is what the kids would pick up.

You want me to hold it? But, ah, so you know they never discussed it with the children. So it was just bits and pieces that the kids would pick up, as youngsters at home but with myself there was a lot that I remembered, I didn't have to be told because I was old enough to remember so and yet it wasn't something that we discussed or we talked about or once and a while. And I guess I did the same thing with my children, really didn't go into detail, I didn't sit them down and say let me tell you a story of you know how it was.

It was I guess by drips and draps. In this passage, Morrison touches upon the concepts of memory and remomroy relating them to the repression so ften found in victims of horrible events and tragedy. In the moments before Sethe touches Paul D's knee, he relates some of the most painful memories he has of Sweet Home to her. Unable to take in all that she is hearing, Sethe stops his narration with the slow methodical movements that characterize her methodical repression of the painful past.

Both Sethe and Paul D work to keep the past tucked away inside the "tabacco tin" inside them where the personal pain of the past resides. They both believe in the concept of "remomory" and fear that confronting the past "might push them both to a place they couldn't get back from.

Morrison concludes the chapter from Sethe's perspective: Nothing better than that to start that day's serious work of beating back the past. However, this passage marks the end of the first significant step away from repression of memory. It marks the first discussion of the past that might lead to healing by spreading the pain and sharing the story with others who lived through the event, making it less dangerous and more relevant to the entire community.

The relationship between storytelling and desire is an important theme in Beloved. Storytelling serves an important function as a way to communicate communal memory. As such, it becomes a communal experience, in which the role of the listener is as significant as that of the teller.

Our passage clearly illustrates this, as Sethe uses her authority as a listener to block the telling of Paul D's story. As Paul D thinks to himself after Sethe places her hand on his knee to silence him, "Just as well. Saying more might push them both to a place they couldn't get back from. When memory is the property of the whole community, the community must consent to the act of remembering.

The desire to remember can only come when both the teller of and the listener to the past feel prepared to face it. Sethe chooses to continue, "beating back the past," p. The story of Ann Levy's family silence shows that this phenomenon is not limited to victims of slavery, but is common to all communities that suffer unspeakable horrors. The passage which begins on the bottom of p.

Paul D has quite simply taken the terrible experience of the bit and locked in "that tobacco tin buried in his chest. In order to survive it, he has had to harden himself- to the memory, and to life in general.

Paul has cut himself off from the pain of emotion, from the risk of hope, and as a result, "no red heart bright as Mister's comb" beats in him. However, in the presence of Sethe, who shared much of Paul's experience, he is able to relase some of his repressed feelings and memories.

Of course, this process of remembering is slow and fraught with psychological peril. If Paul and Sethe take it too fast, if the floodgates of the past are unchecked and everything rushes out in a uncontrollable wave, a mental breakdown could be the result.

They could very well end up in "a place they couldn't get back from. In the same way the novel takes a cautious and indirect approach to remembering the central atrocity of Beloved's murder, and the various atrocites inflicted upon the Sweet Home group, so too do Sethe and Paul approach thier own memories.

Even the most tightly rusted tobacco tin and the largest mass of unworked dough can't beat back the past forever.

One theme from the memory section sources addresses the notion of the "insurmountable guilt" that holocaust survivors experience. It seems there are two types of guilt in "Beloved. These different reactions to injustice cause guilt but this guilt is manifested in different ways. Sethe's murder of her child as a reaction to the injustice of the "men without skin" caused her severe pain that was tangibly confronted by the manifestation of her daughter in Beloved.

In contrast, Stamp Paid felt guilt because he did not confront the injustice of the white owner's relations with his wife. The two men were able to laugh about Sethe's experiences partly because they did not understand the immense suffering of Sethe due to her confrontation of injustice. The passage on page also conveys the message that sometimes when something is so horrible, the human mind can use humor as a way of dealing with pain.

Paul D and Stamp Paid made a joke out of Sethe's attempt at murdering the white man who came to the house. Part of the passage says, "its seriousness and its embarrassment made them shake with laughter. When reading through testimonies of witnesses of the Holocaust, I came across a testimony of a woman who was sent to Auschwitz during World War II with her family. She said that when they arrived at the camp all the women were immediately shaven all over their bodies. She said that when all the hair was removed they all looked like monkeys.

In addition, while some were crying after they had been completely shaven, others could only laugh hysterically. I felt that this passage supports the passage on page as once again sometimes humor or laughter is used to deal with pain that one feels when it is so great.

While it almost seems insane for people to laugh at traumatic or horrifying experiences, maybe laughter is what prevents people from really going crazy. While they cannot understand what motivates her actions, they have a connection to her. Her action against the white man they could not understand. Humor could make the pain and the confusion of the situation into a better understanding. Finally, this passage seems to be concerned with the difference between the perspectives of men and women.

The idea that the mens' laughter was "rusty at first" conjures the image of the tin box into which Paul D has put his memories. Men, or at least Paul D in this book, can open and close their boxes at will, and while it can be painful to do that, the option is theirs. Sethe, on the other hand, is haunted by her worst memory, and so powerful is it that it takes on a human form.

There is no hiding from the past for her, at least not until the end of the book. The fact that the two men can sit on the steps and laugh at Sethe's mental imbalance is a least a little jarring in this book. There are relatively few light-hearted moments, and it is odd that one of them occurs between the two men characters, especially the two who put their heads together to destroy Paul D and Sethe's relationship earlier in the book.

After reminding Sethe of how many feet she has, it seems inappropriate for Paul D to laugh uncontrollably at her. Perhaps he can do this because he does not feel the depth to which the decision to kill her children touched Sethe, and can only see the action as wrong. It is either inhuman or so wrong that it becomes funny.

Baby Suggs would never joke about Sethe this way. I just wanted to briefly expand on some points made by Tyler, Mary, and Judd in their Beloved essay regarding the passage on p Yes, I agree there is an opposing method of dealing with memories between the men and women of the novel. As was mentioned, Paul D. He makes a conscious decision to permanently seal the lid on his painful and tragic past.

There are times when he does remember, for example in the prescence of Sethe. But I gather though difficult, this is an active decision on his part to do so. The same can be said of Stamp Paid, another male character of the story. For example, memories for him are emboddied in the red ribbon that he cherishes, that he exudes from his pocket as he feels is necessary.

Or consider when he makes the decision to bring up the past, Sethe's past in fact, to Paul D. Obviously the males of the novel are somewhat in control of their past, of their memories. And when theirs past do attempt to dominate them these men simply walk away from it. We see this from Stamp Paid who abandons his wife and that entire sordid situation, and we observe it even moreso from Paul D.

Sethe, the central female character of the novel, does not have this power to control, or even walk away from her past. In fact she is brutally confronted by it over and over again. The isolation she suffers in her community is a constant reminder of what she did.

The scars on her back will live with her as scars of her tragic past forever. These kinds of reminders perhaps are bearable for Sethe. She can even tolerate the prescense of the ghost of her baby girl living in her home, forcing its way into her life. However, both Paul D. He tells Sethe of the fate of her husband Halle, of him seeing what happened to her and consequently going insane with the knowledge of it.

Beloved brings an even more hurtful past with her as the reincarnation, the human form of Sethe's baby girl; for with her, Beloved also carries guilt. In the passage on page , Sethe reduces her universe of fears into the statement that "anybody white could Whites might dirty her all right, but not her best thing By doing this, Sethe was trying to protect her daughter and keep her clean.

This finalizes the theme of protection that has run throughout the book. First, on page 42 Sethe explains that the job she "had of keeping [Denver] from the past that was still waiting for her was all that mattered.

Protection, then, and the use of story-telling and "rememory," are essential components of the novel. Protection from the past is also a serious component of the trials and tribulations of Holocaust survivors.

In fact, one tale by a survivor is almost entirely parallel to this particular theme. When speaking about her experiences, Judith Jagermann remarks that upon entering the train that would take her family to Auschwitz, "the continuous fear of the unknown, or that we would be torn apart, was hell for me and almost unbearable, though it seems that one can suffer worse; a person can be humiliated to such an extent, as if he were just some disgusting animal" http: Jagermann's concept of humiliation seems very similar to Sethe's formulation of "dirtying.

The passage is also an excellent example of the extreme pain involved in "remembering. The difficulty in explaining her actions comes from the sheer extent of pain involved in the memory of this act. Try as she might, Sethe will never be able to explain to Beloved the measure of her agony in killing her. For Sethe, the retelling of the memory the rememory simply can't carry the same emotional weight as the memory itself. Similarly, in one of the Nagasaki accounts www.

In both these examples, then, the question remains: How does one express the full weight of a memory in the act of rememory? If a full explanation is impossible, how can one get closer? Story telling is another theme of great importance that is stressed in this passage and it is clear that this telling influences all of the major characters. First, it is important to note that it is only through the story telling that Denver comes to understand her mother and can begin to go on with her own life.

Although she had heard stories before, it is only here that Denver learns of her mother's reasonings and no longer fears that Sethe will kill her at some point. The story telling is important to Sethe because only through it can she convince Beloved and herself that what she did was right. Therefore, it is at this point of the novel that the act of story telling unites Sethe, Denver, and Beloved. The narrator says, "This and much more Denver heard [Sethe] say from her corner chair, trying to persuade Beloved, the one and only person she felt she had to convince, that what she had done was right because it came from true love.

The same Nagasaki account also involves story telling and its ability or, at least, attempt to explain the past. The mother, though drastically misrepresenting the enormity of the event, still is speaking to her daughter about it. Here, then, story telling plays a huge roll. Also, tying into the first theme we discussed, her misrepresentation of the fact just a car accident could be seen as an attempt to protect her daughter form the horrors of the event. In this passage, Morrison touches upon the concepts of memory and remomroy relating them to the repression so often found in victims of horrible events and tragedy.

Later, the passage of Sethe in the Clearing shows her newly acquired ability to express her feelings and to allow her terrible memories to be shared with other people. Sethe had to break from the dominated life of a slave to understand herself.

All of the feelings that she suppressed had the freedom to come out, when Sethe herself gained freedom. The complications of escape, however, made Sethe's road more difficult. For the first month of her freedom, Sethe had to look down the road for the white men who might someday find her.

When the white men came and Sethe killed her daughter to avoid capture, Sethe had to spend the rest of her life freeing herself from slavery and murder.

She could escape the physical limitations of slavery, but in this scene on Baby Sugg's rock, she can not escape the impressions of slavery on her heart. An interesting link to Sethe's escape comes in the story of two Jews who escaped from Auschwitz during the Holocaust http: These two men planned carefully their escape and made it to Slovakia.

Like Sethe, they must have always looked behind them for pursuers. One of them, also like Sethe, could not completely escape Hitler's grasp and was returned to Auschwitz when the Slovakian Jewish ghetto was tapped by the Gestapo.

By telling Beloved in a stream-of-conscious, dream-like manner, Morrison brings to reality the fact that memories really do assume a life of their own.

She uses this fact as a tool throughout the novel to bring a new set of themes to a particular situation, or to either support or add other dimensions to old themes. In the paragraphs surrounding the scene at The Clearing with Beloved, Sethe, and Denver, Baby Suggs massages Sethe's soreback and sore soul trying to calm her unruly 'rememories'.

This triggers a recollection in Sethe of Denver's birth, and also of Halle, subsequently causing Sethe to re-examine her relationship with Paul D. In this instance, memories actually guide the path of the narrative, directing the novel back to the house at , where Sethe decides to cook a dinner for Paul D and herself that will "launch her newer, stronger life with a tender man".

Through allowing the past and its ramifications control of the narrative, Morrison can tell us more about who the characters are than we chould ever gain through observing their actions.

The beloved memories of Sethe and Paul D become bearable only becuase they can be shared. It may be Denver that can only reconstruct the meaning of these memories who may be the worse off. Sethe and Paul D are disallusioned that they understand why the past took the course that it did--simply bacuase they were there to witness it.

It is the issolated confusion of Denver, fueled by the presence of Beloved, that allows us to observe the destructive presence of these memories in The 'Jim Crow' laws, along with other legislative measures, were the methods used by the racist whites in power to prolong the Negroes' suffering, while, in the eyes of some, 'raising' their standard of living by declaring the African-American race 'separate but equal'.

Such an illogical statement shocks our generation, making it hard to believe that our land of opportunity not only oppressed the Negroes during slavery, but also under freedom.

The so-called 'separate but equal' statement collapses under its sheer absurdity, since there wasn't, isn't, or will be any reason why two 'equal' races should be separated. If no differences exist between the two, there can be no justification of a systematic procedure barring their co-existences. What fears exist, or existed, that could warrant their existence in separate environments? Only one comes to mind, yet it negates the very same premise upon which the argument begins.

The white man's belief that the races are not equal, as witnessed by the divergent condition of the train accommodations for coloreds and non-colored, as well as by the insistence of die-hard racists to keep the African race prey of of its ignorance by denying schooling to blacks are but two examples of the true belief of the white man: Morrison briefly mentions the latter example on p.

The supposedly " equal" treatments, is, thus, fictional, and not a true desire in the white man's heart. As stated above, the racist faction of the American people sought to lengthen the deplorable living condition of the black population under a mask of equality.

Thanks to the course of history, important figures such as MLK and other African-American leaders, and narratives such as Beloved, today's view of 19th century bigotry is no longer tainted by a white eye that seeks to obscure the truth. Instead, it is a well-informed one that allows opinions to be formed by facts, not fiction.

After Dachau, I burned my uniform in a vain attempt to rid myself of the death smell. It's still with me, fifty years later. Only recently have I begun talking about the Holocaust. One reason is because I read that as many as seventeen percent of Americans recently polled expressed some doubts that it happened at all.

The greatest tragedy in modern times. And some doubt it happened. Sethe sent her two boys and her baby girl off to Cincinnati to live with their grandmother Baby Suggs. Sethe speaks to Paul D of the time when the two white men took her milk that she was saving for her newborn that she sent to Cincinnati. Paul D then reaches around Sethe and places his hands over her breasts.

At that very moment the spirit of confronts them. After doing so they feel that Paul D has finally put their past lives to rest. Sharing their hard times together, Sethe and Paul D start to plan a future together with each other. Paul D promises to be there for Sethe and she reluctantly agrees to let him take hold of her life. As Paul D, Sethe and Denver arrive back from the carnival they notice a women is leaning against a tree in the yard.

This woman seems to be very tired, extremely thirsty, her shoes look new, and her skin flawless. Denver cares for Beloved for weeks.

However, Beloved begins to show devotion towards Sethe. Paul D begins to grow suspicious of Beloved. Paul D tends to constantly question Beloved about her past, yet Beloved continuously avoids his questions. Denver reveals to Beloved that she knows Beloved was the spirit of Now she wants to know why she came back alive. Beloved tells Denver that she really came back for Sethe.

Beloved speaks to Denver about the place from where she came. Beloved explains the place as hot, very small, nothing to breath, and no room to move. Her description symbolizes both a womb and a slave ship. One night while sitting by the fire Beloved begins humming a song. Sethe realizes that the song she is humming is a song that she had made up and used to sing to her children.

Sethe then realizes whom Beloved really is, her third child come to life.

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Beloved literature essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Beloved.

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Essay on Toni Morrison's Beloved - Symbol and Symbolism in Beloved - Symbolism in Beloved In the novel Beloved, the author, Toni Morrison, attempts to promote a variety of different themes and ideas by symbolizing them in minor events and situations.

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Analysis of Toni Morrison's Beloved Essay Words 18 Pages Analysis of Toni Morrison's Beloved Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize winning book Beloved, is a historical novel that serves as a memorial for those who died during the perils of slavery. Morrison cultivates ambiguity about the character of Beloved. She could be the spirit of Sethe's murdered child, but she could also be an ordinary woman with a traumatic past who find a mother in Sethe.

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Join Now Log in Home Literature Essays Beloved Sethe, a Slave to Her Past Beloved Sethe, a Slave to Her Past Nicola Harrison. In slavery had been abolished in Cincinnati, Ohio for ten years. This is the setting in which Toni Morrison places the characters for her powerfully moving novel, Beloved. The novel “Beloved” opens in with an introduction to the House on Baby Suggs, Sethe’s mother-in-law, lived at until she died. was a way station for Blacks run by Baby Suggs. is the address where Sethe and her family lived, who had four kids, the third child was killed.