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A Mothers Love Essay, Research Paper

A Mothers Love The idea of a ghost story or horror story has long since been

introduced into the world of American literature starting in the late 18th

century. These works played with the idea of life after death and its effects on

the present. The term gothic or gothic horror has been used to describe this

form of literature. The literary meaning of the gothic style of is hard to

define, but to give it a simple meaning the gothic is when the supernatural

encounters the natural. In the novel Beloved by Toni Morrison this form of the

gothic is used. The story involves Sethe, an ex-slave, whom the ghost of her

dead daughter haunts. The ghost of this novel is a two year old who is young in

age, yet strong in power. The character Sethe, is based on the real life story

of the slave Margaret Garner. On Jan. 28, 1856, Garner killed her two-year-old

daughter rather than have her sent back to slavery due to the fugitive slave

law. Garner was later found guilty and sent back to the plantation she fled in

Mississippi. The story of Beloved delves into the most painful part of the

African American heritage, slavery. The memory of this horrifying time is

presented in what Morrison calls ?rememory?– actively making the past real

in the present. The novel is set during the Reconstruction(1870-1890) which

follows the Civil War and emancipation. Much of the characters? pain occurs as

they themselves try to ?reconstruct? their families, communities and their

own sense of identity. While this novel has been compared many times to that of

a slave narrative, Morrison chooses to use the gothic to tell her story. Yes

this novel does use slave narrative form, but it explores a greater range with

the gothic. Morrison chooses to use the gothic because it allows her to explore

the true effects of her characters and their effects on each other. The novel is

broken into three major parts. As part one opens Morrison introduces the house

with, ?124 was spiteful. Full of baby?s venom. The woman knew it and so did

the children? (Morrison 3). Immediately the reader is thrown into this house

with a ghost that is spiteful. The only surviving members of the family are

Denver, the child Sethe was carrying in her escape to freedom, and Sethe. They

live in this house alone with no visitors for eighteen years, until Paul D, a

former slave from the same plantation as Sethe comes to see them. Paul D

instantly gets rid of the horrifying presence that has consumed this house for

so long, and up to this point had only been physical as red light. With this

sense of relief Paul D, Sethe, and Denver go to the local fair. Later they

return home to find a mystical woman who is referred to as ?Beloved?. Denver

identifies the woman as the returned ghost in now human flesh and receives her

as a sister. This is where the novel begins to take on its own existence.

Beloved becomes the focus of everyone?s attention. Beloved has both mental and

physical difficulties. Parts of her body threaten to fall off; some teeth do

fall out. She has a scar on her throat. Her infrequent speech is childish.

Although apparently she is a stranger, Beloved knows intimate things about Sethe,

one of which includes the lullaby that Sethe sang to her babies. Denver takes a

great liking to Beloved. Having been isolated for so many years, Denver finally

feels that she has a friend. Soon, however, she is frightened to discover that

the spirit is covertly attacking Sethe. For example, while pretending to massage

Sethe neck, Beloved tries to choke her. Paul D on the other hand, dislikes

Beloved but finds her sexually irresistible. Under some kind of spell or

conjure, he has sex with her. The presence of this ghost now in human form thus

disrupts every relationship. With this ?rebirth? of Beloved, Sethe is forced

to remember the past. Sethe now beings her emotional journey form slavery to

freedom. At first, Sethe recalls only being shown a mark under her Ma?am

breast as a way to identify her. This mark was probably the result of ritual

scarification, an African tribe that recognizes an person?s transition into

adulthood with a visible sign that they belong to a particular tribe. When Ma?am

was lynched and burned, her body is too badly damaged that he mark does not

show. Symbolically, slavery has wiped out African identity. Another critical

part of identity is language, and the African language has also been taken away

from the slaves. Sethe eventually recalls Nan?s stories of Ma?am.


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