Aurora's "Winter Bird" Resembles Sethe's Journey

In Beloved, Sethe spends a good portion of the novel remembering her hazardous trek to 124 after she had escaped from Sweet Home. She recounts how she had to walk through cold and trying conditions while she was pregnant with Denver. The stunning imagery that Toni Morrison uses to describe this journey parallels the lyrics and overall tone of the song “Winter Bird” by Aurora.

When listening to this song, a few lines caught my attention in particular. The first I noticed was, “like the naked trees.” Aurora then goes on to ask if they will ever wake up again or if they have dreams. I found this line to parallel Beloved‘s motif of trees during Sethe’s journey. The trees themselves serve as a symbol for the overall mechanism of slavery, while the tree Aurora describes symbolizes her own dreams and curiosities.

Another line that struck me as similar to Morrison’s novel was the phrase “lay me by the frozen river, where the boats have passed me by.” This line stood out to me because it reminded me of when Sethe was giving birth to Denver in a boat. She has to have her baby in such horrid conditions because most of the white people do not care enough to help her, similar to how Aurora feels that the boats do not see her as important enough to stop for.

When Aurora sings the main line of the chorus “all I need is to remember, how it was to feel alive,” I couldn’t help but think of Sethe’s journey from Sweet home to 124. Specifically, this reminded me of the scene that Sethe recalls when Amy was massaging Sethe’s feet. Amy states that “anything dead coming back to life hurts.” Similar to Aurora, Sethe’s feet probably don’t remember the feeling of being alive.

Finally, the last line that stood out to me was “only wake each morning to remember that your’e gone.” I found this line to be especially powerful because it resembles Sethe’s emotional journey after she leaves Halle. She constantly wakes up every morning hoping that he will come back to her, but after a while, she knows that he is gone forever. She also looses her children later in her story and knows they will not come back to her.

Along with the lyrics themselves, the sad and heavy tone that Aurora sings this song with contributes to its similarities with the book Beloved. The book is not a happy one, so the tone of the book also has a heaviness to it. All in all, the tone and the words of this song paint a similar picture to that of Sethe’s memory.

“Winter Bird” by AURORA

Denver and Her Fight Against the Aftermath

In Toni Morrison’s novel, Beloved, she focuses on writing about after the life of a slave and even generations that did not belong to slavery w ere still majorly effected by it.

Denver is Sethe’s fourth and last child that she has while escaping to the North to freedom. Denver will never know what life was like as a slave, and that is thanks to her mother but she is pressured by what lies in front of her because of the past.

Denver hears stories of the past lives her mother and grandmother lived and things they did when Denver was only a baby. the trauma and oppression Sethe and Baby Suggs felt as being slaves follows them even in good times. Denver who was not part of slavery also can feel the oppression by not getting an equal opportunity in many things, being wary of the outside world, and feeling lonely even with loved ones around her.

Throughout the book Denver becomes more independent and stronger. She overcomes the bad things that were dealt to her at birth. She reaches out to others, she stands up against people she thought were good, and she did not stop.

Overall, life after slavery is neither glamorous, perfect, or easy. But it is the fight to overcome these events to make life worth living and loving.

Denver's Agency

As I read Beloved, I kept expecting a romantic interest for Denver to be introduced. However, as I kept reading, I noticed there is a lack of romantic love throughout the book. Sethe and Paul D. get together, but even that relationship seems to blossom out of the need for an escape, the need to remember the past, not just love for each other. Even Halle and Sethe’s relationship is described as familial, not romantic. I think that Toni Morrison chose not to give Denver a romantic interest because it would take away her agency.

A romantic interest would have hindered Denver’s growth and made her arc shallow. If Denver had a romantic interest that swept her off her feet, that boy would have been the reason she separated from Beloved and Sethe. She would not have had to make the conscious decision to get help without knowing that she would have anyone to return to. Denver’s power comes from her actions. Without a boy, she is only influenced by her mind, not someone else.

What is the Significance of Breast Milk?

*slight spoilers for Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon*

When first reading Toni Morrison’s Beloved, I tried my best to be a good Nabokovian reader and approach the novel as something brand new, but as the story progressed, I couldn’t help myself from drawing similarities between Beloved and Song of Solomon, another acclaimed novel of Morrison’s.

Not only do the novels have similar storytelling techniques and sentence structures, but they even share several central themes and motifs. Both novels have roots in slavery, even though they are both set in post-slavery America and have central characters who were born into freedom. Milkman, the great-grandson of a slave, tries to uncover his family history, whereas Sethe, a former slave, tries to hide her past as a slave from her children. 

There was one particular motif that I was quite surprised to find in both novels: breast milk. In Song of Solomon, Macon Dead III is given the nickname “Milkman” because when he was four years old, he was caught by a neighbor breastfeeding from his mother. His mother breastfeeds him for such a long time because it is the only physical intimacy she has with another human being. Their community views the exchange of breast milk between Milkman and his mother as inappropriate and incestual. In contrast, in Beloved, breastfeeding is seen as the ultimate expression of maternal love in an intimate and affectionate but not sexual way. 

“All I knew was I had to get my milk to my baby girl. Nobody was going to nurse her like me. Nobody was going to get it to her fast enough, or take it away when she had enough and didn’t know it. Nobody knew that she couldn’t pass her air if you held her up on your shoulder, only if she was lying on my knees. Nobody knew that but me and nobody had her milk but me” (19).

In Beloved, milk symbolizes a mother’s love, yet in Song of Solomon, it represents a mother’s impure desires. In both cases, the mother’s milk provides nourishment to the children, but the intentions are completely different. I find that Morrison’s ability to use different connotations of motifs interchangeably across books is the most sophisticated form of symbolism there is. Is Nabokovian reading really the best way of reading if it prevents people from making connections like this, or did making this connection somehow negatively impact my reading of Beloved?

Beloved and Song of Solomon

Toni Morrison is hands down an amazing author and a person who shaped how stories should be told. Within her many novels, Morrison has wrote stories that highlighted themes of discrimination, family, beauty, and included twists of the supernatural. Within her renown novel Beloved, there is beauty in the way she presents the supernatural and things that cannot be explained. As Beloved progresses, there is a ghost that gives a deeper meaning to slavery and how a person relives trauma. Similar to Beloved, she has another novel that depicts these similar attributes.

From reading Song of Solomon in last years English class and reading Beloved this year I was surprised to find a connection in the peculiar parts of the novels. Obviously there will be connections because Morrison incorporates similar themes and is the author of both books. But besides those factors, if one takes a look into the deeper supernatural aspects of each book, the connections are clear. Within Song of Solomon, there is reference to folktale of slaves flying back to Africa. Within this supernatural aspect, this also connects to the ghost in beloved because both embody issues that arise from slavery.

Overall, Toni Morrison delivers stories that captivate how one perceives slavery and truly gives deeper meaning. Although her stories range in character, the deepest meanings are quite clear.

Do Ghosts Have a Place in History?

Often, when we look for historical fiction books, we look for stories that seem real. We look for stories that make the past seem vivid and tangible.

I didn’t expect to find this in Beloved. One of the most important elements of Morrison’s novel is Beloved, a ghostly presence who haunts Sethe as a constant reminder of the horrors of slavery. I don’t believe in ghosts, and so I thought that the intangible Beloved would serve as a distraction of the real-life horrors the book touches on.

But Beloved is part of Sethe’s story. By writing about Beloved, Morrison managed to write about Sethe as a person, rather than just writing about her experiences. And in writing about a person, Morrison was able to describe the haunting impacts of those experiences.

Toni Morrison story was one with depth. It doesn’t just help us to understand history — it creates empathy.

The Importance of Storytelling

Throughout her novel, Beloved, Toni Morrison portrays the importance of storytelling. It is essential to the novel as it serves as a way to communicate memories among the characters. One of the ways in which memories live on is through storytelling. 

As Sethe tells Denver about her family and her remarkable birth, Denver is able to develop a sense of personal history and heritage. Storytelling allows memories to stay alive especially among characters such as Sethe, Baby Suggs, Paul D, and Denver. These personal memories create a shared tradition about the past and provide slaves the ability to tell their own story. This ultimately allows slaves to define themselves rather than constantly being defined by slave-owners. 

Although storytelling brings people together, it can also bring back horrific memories. For Sethe and Paul D, their memories as slaves continue to haunt them, which can prevent them from moving on. At the end of the novel, Morrison repeats, “It was not a story to pass on” (324). This suggests that after Beloved’s disappearance, people had to forget about her in order to live on with their lives. Morrison’s story of Beloved conveys that there is value in learning about this painful story of the past because it is important to remember the history of slavery.