Throughout elementary and middle school, I was only told about the life of slaves who died as a slave, and the work that Harriet Tubman did with the Underground Railroad. That’s it. The worst part is, I didn’t even think about the fact that there are so many other sides and points of view of slavery besides those two. Beloved shed light on an embarrassingly new area for me, telling the story of a slave who escaped and began her life outside the confinement of slavery.
Even though Sethe in Beloved did end up escaping and gave birth to her child, her story falls nothing short of traumatic. Toni Morrison uses an array of symbols and motifs to reflect the past in the current, real life of Sethe. I believe that both the ghost and reincarnated (?) form of Beloved is the biggest symbol of all, as she is a real figure that triggers memories and scenes from Sethe’s past. I also believe that one of the biggest takeaways Toni Morrison would want her readers to gain is the true effect and aftermath of living life after being a slave, a life that most people nowadays would ever even be able to imagine. She shows the differing emotional impact this traumatic life had through many characters, but especially highlights the difference between Paul D and Sethe, as they shared a similar experience. Paul D compresses his feelings and they eat away at him. He feels that his role is to be strong and someone to lean on, which includes sacrificing his own needs in the process. Sethe has strong emotions and shows many of her flashback memories to the reader, she is clearly facing serious emotional damage which will stay with her for the rest of her life.