In Beloved, Toni Morrison portrays the barbarity and cruelty of slavery. She emphasizes the African American’s desire for a new life as they try to escape their past while claiming their freedom and creating a sense of community. In Beloved, “Much of the characters’ pain occurs as they reconstruct themselves, their families, and their communities after the devastation of slavery” (Kubitschek 115). Throughout the novel, Morrison uses color to symbolically represent a life complete with happiness, freedom, and safety, as well as involvement in community and family. In many scenes, Morrison uses color to convey a character’s desire for such a life; while, in other instances, Morrison utilizes color to illustrate the satisfaction and fulfillment, which the characters experience once they achieve this life.
Morrison uses color to symbolize the life Paul D desires as he is heading North. When Paul D asks the Cherokee man “how he might get North. Free North. Magical North,” (Morrison 112) he conveys his desire for a free, safe, happy and even somewhat magical life. Equating color with this life, the Cherokee man replies, “Follow the tree flowers.” When one thinks about or describes flowers, their colors are always important. In his journey North, Paul D would “scan the horizon for a flash of pink or white…[or] blossoming plums” (Morrison 113). By having Paul D search for colorful flowers, Morrison illustrates Paul D’s desire for a life full of safety, enjoyment, and freedom.
Just as Paul D desires a better life after slavery, so does Baby Suggs. As a slave, Suggs was suppressed and did not experience the type of life she desired. Morrison indirectly demonstrates…
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…e beauty of this land that was not” theirs (Morrison 268). “They cling to its banks to lap water and tried not to love it;” for, their life was not their own (Morrison 268). Thus, when the slaves are able to experience color, like Denver when she is a part of the community, the symbolism of color is very powerful. It symbolizes a character’s ability to own a feeling or emotion. For example, when Sugars dies, she concentrates on color because that is one thing in her life which she owns. The effects of slavery have destroyed her family, community and even freedom. Therefore, she focuses on color because it is her own experience and the happiness she feels from pondering color is her own.
Kubitschek, M.D. Toni Morrison: A Critical Companion. London: Greenwood Press, 1998.
Morrison, Toni. Beloved. New York: Plume Printing, 1987.
Symbolic Healing in Toni Morrison’s Beloved
Symbolic Healing in Beloved
Toni Morrison’s powerful novel Beloved is based on the aftermath of slavery and the horrific burden of slavery’s hidden sins. Morrison chooses to depict the characters that were brutalized in the life of slavery as strong-willed and capable of overcoming such trauma. This is made possible through the healing of many significant characters, especially Sethe. Sethe is relieved of her painful agony of escaping Sweet Home as well as dealing with pregnancy with the help of young Amy Denver and Baby Suggs. Paul D’s contributions to the symbolic healing take place in the attempt to help her erase the past. Denver plays the most significant role in Sethe’s healing in that she brings the community’s support to her mother and claims her own individuality in the process. Putting her trust in other people is the only way Sethe is able to relieve herself of her haunted past and suffering body. Morrison demonstrates that to overcome the scars of slavery, one must place themselves in the hands of those that love them, rather than face the painful memories alone.
It is not surprising to see that Sethe named her second born daughter after the young girl that saved both of their lives. Amy Denver, a white servant girl fleeing toward Boston, gave encouragement and first aid relief to Sethe’s swollen feet and helped her crawl to safety. As Sethe lay dying on the uncomfortable ground, Amy approached her. “She [Amy] gathered rocks, covered them with more leaves and made Sethe put her feet on them…then she did the magic: lifted Sethe’s feet and legs and massaged them until she cried salt tears” (Morrison, 35). Amy is free of the thriving need to abuse slaves, and this ignorance proves beneficial. U…
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…port Sethe, and in return, Sethe chooses to accept their healing attempts and walks away from Beloved.
Slavery is and will always be within Sethe. She was born a slave and raised a slave. Crossing a river to freedom doesn’t change the torturous bonds of slavery. The emotional barriers slavery places on people leave different effects but one thing remains common: the feeling of no self-worth. Not all people are as lucky as Sethe to have people in their lives that help to overcome such obstacles. With the help of Amy, Denver, Baby Suggs, Paul D, and others along her journey, Sethe is able to overcome the impossible and move on from her past with a life of love and acceptance.
Furman, Jan. Toni Morrison’s Fiction. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1996.
Morrison, Toni. Beloved. New York, Penguin Books USA Inc, 1998.