Why are Eyes so Prevalent in Beloved?

“Halle’s girl-the one with iron eyes” 

“It must have been her eyes that kept him both guarded and stirred up”

“Sethe’s eyes bright but dead”

“The man without skin, looking. He is looking at her.” 

Moving through the course of the story, I noticed a repetitive nature when discussing the characters eyes. I pondered over the reasoning behind Morrison’s discussion of the gaze at vital moments, such as the point where Beloved pushes Sethe around and the first intimate moment between Paul D and Sethe. 

When analyzing the meaning behind Morrison’s discussion of the character’s eyes, I realized that it serves as a window into past experiences. As the story focuses on different moments of time, and the impact that slavery had on the present lives of character, the repetitive use of eyes furthers emphasizes the individualized trauma that characters experienced. It does this by giving direct insight into lives and their emotional state. In fact, the repeated mention of eyes connects to the larger theme of the novel, the idea that while trauma negatively impacts individuals, they must acknowledge it to recover rather than repress. 

At first, I found the book a little challenging to process. The constant shift in not only perspectives but also time make the novel a more abstract than most. However, both the emphasis on eyes and technical elements used in the novel ultimately made the story a powerful and unique piece of literature.

4 thoughts on “Why are Eyes so Prevalent in Beloved?

  1. Mira A.

    Natalie, the way you formatted this post with the quotes at the beginning, followed by an analysis of what you observed was very organized and easy to understand. I too was very curious about the symbolism of eyes throughout the novel, and this explanation was very thought provoking and intelligent. Thank you for sharing your ideas in such an effective and efficient way.


  2. JULIA Y

    I love the quotations that you included! I think they are great examples of Morrison’s beautiful diction and her ability such in depth motifs. I too found all of the motifs and symbolism within the novel hard to follow, but your explanation made so much sense. I think especially when Paul D focuses on Sethe’s eyes you can see the connection to the past


  3. Micah D

    I too found the book a challenging read, and still do. But I quickly fell in love with the style of writing, the bountiful amount of motifs, and the complexity of each character. I did not notice the motif of the eyes and you’ve open *my eyes* to yet another very cool and thoroughly thought out motif. Every little thing in this novel adds to its unique greatness.


    1. JOHN V

      I noticed the same thing. The motif of eyes was prevalent throughout the novel and I think it had to do with people turning a blind eye towards the horrors of slavery.


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