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Depiction of motherhood for enslaved and formerly enslaved in Beloved (Essay Sample)


This essay is based on Beloved by Toni Morrison. The story explores the tragedy of slavery through the eyes of Sethe, an enslaved person who murders her daughter to preserve her from enslavement. Because of the system of slavery and, thus, racial dominance, African American slave mothers are deprived of maternal responsibilities


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Depiction of motherhood for enslaved and formerly enslaved in Beloved
This essay is based on Beloved by Toni Morrison. The story explores the tragedy of slavery through the eyes of Sethe, an enslaved person who murders her daughter to preserve her from enslavement. Because of the system of slavery and, thus, racial dominance, African American slave mothers are deprived of maternal responsibilities. African American motherliness is being robbed of their individuality and heritage by splitting families by selling and cheapening African Americans as commodities (Wike 1). As a result, the mothers exhibit psychological symptoms when alienated from their children due to slavery. So, motherhood in slavery is depicted as an experience that could cause psychological problems due to the denial of motherly responsibilities and robbing of individuality.
The novel Beloved exposes the reader to the crimes and effects of the American system of slavery, primarily through the experience of a black slave lady Sethe and the characters who develop around her. The novel’s initial lines show that the narrative focuses on more than one slave mother’s experiences, as they are: “Sixty Million and far more” (Morrison), implying that this narrative is relevant to sixty million people. The plot, on the other hand, revolves around the protagonist Sethe and her family, who live in the ruins of slavery.
The novel depicts the agony that Sethe must go through as an enslaved woman. However, upon deeper examination, most of her hardships were tied to her kids. When she became pregnant, she was tortured and harassed; she had to bear children on a yacht and murder her kid to escape slavery. Even after Sethe goes to Ohio, the spirit of Beloved stalks her and torments the family (Koolish 175). Sethe had no choice but to endure as an enslaved person. However, having kids significantly increased her stress. She was tied to individuals other than white people. Sethe was oppressed in some ways by her kids.
Although she was a burden to her kids, Sethe consistently demonstrated that she sincerely cared about what was best for them. She recounts her motherly love to Paul D, describing how it was broad that it covered all of her kids. She said she was gigantic, and when she spread her arms out, all her kids could fit somewhere in between. That is how big she was ( Morrison). While at the same time, she felt terrified. She also informs Paul D she is concerned about not having enough breastmilk for each of them. She only grieved the absence of her milk because she was violated while pregnant (Morrison).
Morrison addresses parenthood in its most repressed aspect in Beloved, the mother imprisoned and degraded to a brood horse. Sethe formed her first bonds with her kids in the sarcastically titled Sweet Home, where enslaved people are permitted to mingle and establish families. These links resurface with horrifying ferocity as Sethe strives to restore the infants to a common maternal body, to consume them again into the comfort of the mother’s uterus, much like a mother cat would eat its offspring as the act of extreme protection (Demetrakopoulos 52). This is a manifestation of the psychological suffering of a mother when she sees or thinks her children would suffer.
According to Sethe, children should die because they are shielded from the horrible realities of slavery and their idealized futures. Sethe’s act claims that it is preferable to cut off a child’s life than to allow them to pass through their entire life as a soul-dead, a dummy, or a zombie walking through another person’s daily hassles and needs. The future of an adult is the child, and thus no need to allow them to suffer in the future (Demetrakopoulos 53). The killing of Beloved by Sethe is centered on the future.
Mothers during slavery and post-slavery endured mistreatment, torture, and harassment and remained strong. Sethe seems to have not been affected by the isolation, but it is clear that her individuality and mental state are affected when she gets isolated from her people. She questions why she does not become insane and why she has retained in her memory of the horrific events that have occurred in her life. Morrison purposefully makes a character whose fortitude would crumble under the gravity of the horrors that drive her motherly connections into solitude from her society and history and so remote from the rest of her life (Demetrakopoulos 53).
The loss of Sethe’s individuality is seen when she almost stops using intellect in solving her problems which shows symptoms of trauma. It nearly seems as though her parenthood confines and binds her intellect. Losing her child drives Sethe’s thoughts outside her body since her inventive self, in the shape of her psyche, works as a natural progression of her physiology. Although she does not have a lost mind, at the book’s end, when Paul D discovers her in bed seemingly giving up on life, she has stopped using her intellect as a resource for coping with life’s challenges (Demetrakopoulos 53).
Motherhood in slavery is depicted as traumatizing experience curtailing the victim from planning her future. Morrison deprives Sethe of having suicidal thoughts, which at least acknowledges the existence. Sethe continues rationalizing slavery even after being freed from enslavement and prison; she merely keeps the past held bay to her three kids. However, she never thinks about her future. According to Demetrakopoulos (53), Sethe is unable to take part in life as it is happening; she relies on her mind as her only means of surviving and coping, similar to Son in Tar Baby, who finds himself in the bog of his mythical forefathers and wanders an island alone without any civilization, group, or clan.
Sethe’s individuality is so lost that even her freedom from slavery was not genuinely her idea. Psychological issues of the past made her not realize that she needed freedom. She was pushed to escape the prison because of the baby waiting for her milk in her big breasts. That was life kicking inside of her. She had to design her life to enable her children to grow as a biological need. Beloved weighs heavily on Sethe’s conscience and also in her heart (Demetrakopoulos 55). When a child dies, the mother views the deceased kid as motherhood in potential and truncated.
Sethe, Denver, and Paul D show some characteristics that depict victims of extreme abuse who experience dissociative or multiple personality disorders (MPD). Denver and Paul D are usually unsure whether they are conscious or dreaming during the book. Denver is protected at night in Room 124 by slumber and the consoling presence of Baby Suggs, whereas during the day when she is cognizant, she frequently questions whether she is still “breathing” and surviving within her own body (Koolish 170). Outcomes always follow decisions that are made voluntarily in the present. She speculates in Denver’s mo

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