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Beloved: A Darkness In 124 Essay, Research Paper

Beloved: A Darkness in 124

What is the significance of the number 124? Is the number 124 merely a place or can it actually be characterized as something more important in this novel? In my opinion 124 is more significant than a simple address. The number 124 can be characterized as one of the main characters within the novel. This number is not only significant because it is the origin of the haunting character of Beloved, but it is in fact Beloved the character at various points within the novel. Once the spirit of Beloved began haunting the house, the address lost its existence as an anonymous home. Once Sethe?s love had caused her to murder her child, her home became a new identity. This identity was known for the sad and spiteful spirit of the child and the horrific actions that had occurred at the address rather than the home of the well-loved Baby Suggs and her daughter-in-law.

Toni Morrison portrays the importance and the significance of 124 in the story within the first few lines: ?124 was spiteful. Full of a baby?s venom. The women in the house knew it and so did the children. For years each put up with the spite in his won way, but by 1873 Sethe and her daughter were its only victims?(11). Although it is not yet apparent to the reader who or what 124 is, it is apparent that 124 plays an important role in the novel. As the novel progresses, it becomes clear that 124 and Beloved are one identity. The object 124 that is ?full of a baby?s venom?? and is considered ?spiteful? is in fact the spirit of Beloved.

Something important to keep in mind when considering Beloved?s role in this novel is to consider Beloved?s place in both Denver and Sethe?s life as a spirit versus Beloved?s identity as a person of flesh. When Beloved is identified as the ghostly spirit that is haunting 124, she is thought to be angry and vengeful. Sethe seems to live with it as though the spirit is a burden that is her punishment. Denver, on the other hand, accepts the spirit and attempts to befriend it out of desperation of loneliness. This is why Denver resents Paul D when he comes to live at 124. He has ripped her only friend away from her. ?With a table and a loud male voice he had rid 124 of its claim to local fame?(71).

After Beloved?s death, 124 became void of all color and emotion. Even Baby Suggs couldn?t stand the lack of color. In Paul D?s presence, ?emotions sped to the surface in his company. Things became what they were: drabness looked drab; heat was hot. Windows suddenly had view?(75). I feel that it is evident that Paul D?s entrance into the home opened the pathway for Beloved into the world of the living. The reason that 124 seems so lifeless in Paul D?s presence is because 124 is no longer a common entity with Beloved. 124 has now become a home rather than Beloved?s haunting arena.

Once Beloved has crossed over to the world of the living, 124 becomes a place for Beloved to seek revenge on her mother. Beloved uses 124 to separate her and Sethe from the rest of the world. It is in 124 that she has control over Sethe and is able to manipulate Sethe. As time progresses an apparent change appears over Sethe. The longer that Sethe is in 124, the more delusional and weak she becomes to Beloved?s torture. As time goes on, the lives of Beloved and Sethe slowly become reversed. Sethe is slowly dying, helpless and week while Beloved is healthy and pregnant with Paul D?s baby.

Ironically, as their lives are being reversed within 124, their lives outside 124 are also being reversed. Once Denver allows the horrible truth to be known by the community. The same community that once chastised Sethe for murdering her baby comes to her rescue. Ella is the first to take action. ?As long as the ghost showed out from its ghostly place-shaking stuff, crying, smashing and such-Ella respected it. But if it took flesh and came in her world, well, the shoe was on the other foot?this was invasion?(441). Once the ladies in the community had chased off Beloved, 124 became a drab, colorless place once again.

What was the significance of the number 124 in Toni Morrison?s Beloved? 124 had been more than just an address. It had been a place where a generous white man of the community had been born, it had been a symbol for Baby Suggs? freedom, a place for Beloved?s haunting, and a place for Sethe to lie in peace just as Baby Suggs had and wait to die.


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