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Beloved: the Manifestation of Guilt

Toni Morrison is a phenomenal writer, who weaves a story that challenges the reader to look beyond the words and decipher her masterful plots. I know many people don’t read her novels because of the complexity of the storylines. However, that is one of the reasons I love her work. I’ve read: Jazz, Beloved, Song of Solomon, Sula, Tar Baby, and the Bluest Eyes. I have Paradise and intend to purchase her latest two: Love and A Mercy. I’ve read the Pulitzer Prize winning “Beloved” twice. Honestly, the first time I attempted to read it, it spooked me so badly, I had to put it down. It took me months to go back to it.

Beloved [1987] is the haunting tale of the effects of Slavery on a mother’s psyche, and the depths that she sunk to in order to ensure that her children would never have to endure the horrors that she had suffered. Sethe does escape from Slavery, but not without paying a terrible cost. Under the threat of being captured during her escape, she attempts to kill all her children in order to spare them from life as a slave. Sethe only succeeds in killing one of them. Her baby girl’s tombstone reads “Beloved.” The rest of them do escape, but Beloved’s spirit haunts and torments that entire family and when Beloved’s supernatural presence is forced out of the house, she returns reincarnated as a mysterious young woman or so it seems.

Once Sethe begins to believe that this young woman is the reincarnated two year old she killed with a handsaw, she begins to spoil her in an attempt to compensate for her horrific actions. Beloved senses the remorse of her mother and uses those feelings to manipulate and control her, to the point where her mother is depleted [emotionally, mentally, and physically]. The more depleted Sethe becomes, the larger Beloved’s spirit grows. Sethe’s other daughter Denver turns to the Black community to save her mother. One hundred and twenty-four people come together to expel the Sethe’s guilt [Beloved] by exorcism, and Beloved disappears.

Here is my interpretation of “Beloved.” Beloved was the manifestation of Sethe’s guilt. That explains why Sethe’s remorse caused Beloved’s spirit to enlarge. Sethe’s guilt tormented her and the other children who survived, to the point that two of her sons ran away from home. Her guilt controlled her and destroyed her chance to develop a relationship with Paul D. She became so fixated with feeding her guilt until she refused to eat. Ultimately, if not exorcised, her guilt would have killed her.

The concept that I propose is not far-fetched, and actually plays itself out in the lives of many parents who had made horrendous mistakes concerning their children, and attempt to remedy that mistake by spoiling the ill-tempered child because of their guilt. So, then my premise suggest that Beloved was more than a ghost, she was the extension of her mother’s guilt-ridden spirit. Guilt manifested into a spiteful entity which overwhelmed her and almost took her life.

You may have seen the movie starring Oprah, but you won’t begin to understand the complexity and genius of Toni Morrison’s Beloved until you read the book for yourself.





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Dianne Rosena Jones is the Founder/CEO of Royal Treasures Publishing, a Transformational Life Coach, Motivational Speaker, and Author of the award-winning “Tragic Treasures: Discovering Spoils of War in the Midst of Tragedy” the "Best Inspirational Book of the Year" [2010].

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