The invasion of the American continent by the imperial forces had the strength to erase the Past, distort the present and stain the future of all the individual communities that met with its current. This devastation was maximally manifested in the lives of the Africans who were transported to America in need of “manual” labour. So, the class that came to be called “slaves” became subjugated to the levels of animals which needed to be tamed, domesticated and controlled with force. In her benchmark novel Beloved, Toni Morrison attempts to present the circumstance both during and after slavery of the “60 Million and more” individuals who have been rendered mute in lack of life. Describing a slave’s life then, is not only a walk through gruesome history but a matter of revisiting the Past in the Present. Yet in the case of Beloved The Past is not only revisited but re-experienced in a new form. So it draws from reason that Morrison aims to show how the inexpressible history of slavery leaves an (in)visible mark on lives of people such that being “free” becomes an illusion. It is noticeable that Beloved does not provide a different perspective to slavery but presents its horrid picture as a “rememory”. And each of the characters stand to justify the inescapability from the life “lead” as a slave, that transforms to life “survived” as a free slave. The repertoire of the historical Margaret Garner, Sethe becomes the bearer of the narrative. The narrative of Sethe’s life stands as a metonym to the grand narrative of the life of a slave who like her were born out of a mother long forgotten. Separated from her mother in her nursing years Sethe recalls her childhood spent in rice fields with reminiscence. The only thing that she recalls of her mother was the “symbol” which she carried on her rib as a mark of being a white man’s property. Therefore having not seen a family Sethe longed for her children whom she believed were hers- A claim that she felt she could not exercise on anyone else. Her social isolation amongst other ex-slaves and the subsequent alienation from human kind is visually the same state that the first generation of slaves faced when they found themselves amongst other slaves who did not share their language. Yet Sethe’s loneliness is different in the sense that she was abandoned in a society which shared the same language with her. The emblem of the “tree” at Sethe’s back holds prominence in the same light. It acts as a constant reminder of the Past which Sethe carries on her back, figuratively. SO while she is not reminded of it in her everyday life her relationships (with Paul D and Amy) are shadowed by the same Past that burdens her. A burden that she can neither share nor get released from. Comparable to Sethe, Paul D senses the eeriness of the presence of Beloved and is constantly reminded of the days he had spent as a slave. He consequently moves out of Sethe’s bedroom to Baby’s room and finally in the shed to avoid the gaze of Beloved. His distancing with Beloved stands of special interest here. Paul D had spent his entire life as an ex slave roaming about in different states evading settlement, because of an internal fear that one may “sit down too long, somebody will figure out a way to tie them”. Thus it can be concluded that Beloved not only reminded but epitomised the Past for him. She could worry him “sick to the stomach” with an anxiety that Paul D could only describe as “funny”. And it is worth noticing that Beloved is received with the same hostility by the entire neighbourhood especially Ella who quotes “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof”. So every character voices as a different perspective to the narrative of slavery and evokes a different defense mechanism to repress its memory. Thus, while the story of Stamp Paid describes the commoditisation and objectification of the Blacks, the painful tale of Sixo describes the extent of brutalities that the Blacks had to face. And as Stamp Paid repressed his guilt for having sold his wife by saving Blacks who crossed the waters, Sixo expressed his rebellion by smiling at the face of his death. The repression was heightened to the extent that Sethe could not identify her “lifeless” existence in the bleak gray and white house until she met Paul D who resurfaced her memories and evoked desire in her. Morrison pays homage to the African concept of neighbourhood, wherein relationships and responsibilities surpass a narrow family structure, by not giving any special privilege to the life narrative of any of the slaves. To sum up then in the novel Beloved the reader traces the trajectory of the life of three generations of slaves. And in a contrast the novel attempts to show the different forms of slavery that the three generations are subjected to. So while the first generation (Baby Suggs) is scarred with Past full of physical slavery such that “living was the hard part”, the second generation (Sethe Paul D) battles with mental enslavement and cannot let go while the third (Denver, Howard and Buglar) struggles to escape the Past they have evaded and collect the bits and pieces of the family they have left. Coming from different origins and cultures, the Black slaves did not owe their inheritance to a common ancestor. SO the slave community was formed out of mutual understanding of each other’s pain and a sense of humanity that arose out of the lack of it. As in the words of Baby Suggs – “Not a house in the country ain’t packed to its rafters with some dead Negro’s grief”. Baby understood that the slaves had lost the attachment to their physical self and it was this loss of sensation that came to be personified in its extreme in the figure of Sethe. They had surpassed the barrier of pain and were unmoved by the double edged emotion of love, which is why Baby preached for the slaves to love their hands and feel the beating of their heart which loved them - “You got to love it, you!”. Baby Suggs hoped to make the Blacks regain their love for themselves and in the process embrace the freedom that they had received. Baby intended to remove the mental enslavement of the Blacks from their haunting Past by talking about their pain or “lay it all down, sword and shield”. Even after their freedom the Blacks were living in the horror of their Past. The trauma of slavery was so profound that they repressed its memory. This is the reason why the novel is structured in a way that the story of each of the character’s Past is eventually unfolded with each chapter as they discuss about it. As a collection then, the novel traces the way to healing of the Blacks. In fact for Morrison black history is the core of black identity. As Susan Blake has pointed out it is not a case of “forging new myths” but of “rediscovering the old ones”. In this process lies the clue not only to “the way we really were” but to “the way we really are”. But Morrison condemns the Past spent in slavery as a “story which cannot be passed on”. Through each of the characters then, Morrison aims at depicting this selfsame story in a picture formed of symbols. To conclude every character of the novel aids at providing a different perspective to what it meant to be a slave and their worst fears and apprehension were crystallised in the single character of Sethe. Beloved is an attempt to provide an alternate point of view to Euro-centric accounts of history, especially slavery. She uses the experience of Sethe and others as witnesses to the cruel and barbaric acts that resulted from the slave system. Beloved is not a personal account of slavery. It is a composite story of slaves and their quest for freedom. It is the story of a community that battles the same odds of existence as Sethe and how they come together as “a people”.
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