Inspiration behind Beloved

In the interview Tony Morrison gave shortly after releasing Beloved to shelves, she talked about the story of Margaret Garner, the woman who inspired her to write about slavery and more broadly what the mother-child relationship and dynamic is like for those who are enslaved or have experienced slavery. The story of Margaret garner is horrific but reflects not only the brutality of slavery but the intensity of a mother’s love for her child. Margaret Garner had almost escaped slavery with her family, but when stopped by US Marshalls, Garner killed her daughter as she would rather take her life than see it taken back by the slave owners. The act of taking her own daughter’s life would in no way be easy for her, but she is willing to do it to prevent her daughter from being enslaved. It also shows from the firsthand perspective of someone who had been enslaved for likely their entire life, that death seemed better than life as a slave.

This connects to Beloved, however Sethe did not have control of her daughter’s fate. This may have caused more pain in the longrun, as Sethe handed over her child, and is faced for the rest of her life with thoughts that if she had kept her daughter with her for those few days that she may still be alive. However, if Sethe had to do something like Margaret Garner did, and take the life of her daughter in a brutal way, and then lived the rest of her life safe from slavery, she would feel horrible and would be haunted ever worse by the Ghost of her daughter. The impact of Beloved’s death is shown throughout the novel, in one instance, Sethe refuses to move out of her home, even though it is causing them social and emotional problems. As she does not feel comfortable moving because the last time she did so, she lost her daughter, and likely because even though her daughter’s presence is not always positive, it is all she has left.

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