Destruction of Identity Under Slavery in Beloved

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The novel Beloved by Toni Morrison, published in 1987, is a brilliant work that was inspired by a story of an African-American slave, Margaret Garner. Beloved begins with the protagonist, Sethe, living in a community post slavery with her eighteen-year-old daughter Denver. At a young age, an individual develops a unique self-identity that may be destroyed by a series of traumatic events.

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Throughout the novel, each character has been affected by slavery whether mentally, psychologically or physically. Some may even end their lives or some repress the past memories so deeply that they lose touch with people around them and most importantly themselves. Repression occurs when the mind experiences tragic events in order to reduce anxiety and escape from the brutal past. Even years after escaping slavery, Sethe, Paul D, and Denver were trapped within their own minds.  In Toni Morrison’s Beloved, the return of Beloved led to a complete loss of identities for the characters as the fragmented sense of self begins to shatter.

        Sethe was using the method of repression to help her move on with her new life as a free slave in Cincinnati, Ohio. The narrative, Morrison has a distinct way of writing where she constantly jumps from the past to present. This style of writing is symbolic for Sethe’s deteriorating mental health, where her past becomes her present and her present becomes her past. I was talking about time. It’s so hard for me to believe in it. Some things go. Pass on. Some things just stay. I used to think it was my rememory. You know.

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