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Beloved and Numerology
In literature, numbers are used to communicate important messages to the reader. The author uses references to numbers to strengthen the important ideas of the novel. In many cultures numbers carry an important or significant meaning to them. These numbers can carry a meaning more efficiently than using only words. In Beloved, Toni Morrison uses references to numbers to emphasize the significant ideas of the novel. Morrison uses these numbers to represent the persistence of slavery brought upon in Sethe’s life, her children’s life, Paul D.’s life, and Baby Suggs life, after slavery has ended. These references to numbers are important because they show how these characters are affected after it has ended. Through physical means, through the actions of these characters, and through psychological means of these characters, Morrison shows the haunting continuation and aftereffects of slavery.
In many novels the first sentence is the most important sentence in the novel. The first sentence can set the way for the remainder of the novel. In Beloved the first sentence, and first word of the entire novel uses numbers. Because numbers are used first, before any words, I find that the references to numbers are very important. 124 is in the first sentence on the first page. The sentence states, “124 WAS SPITEFUL” (Morrison 3). This sentence is in all capital letters and also bold print. This shows an importance that this reference to numbers has on the novel. This number used on the page sets up the haunting story of slavery in one particular black household. The number refers to the house number in which the main characters live in. This house, 124, is haunted by the ghost of the baby of the main character, Sethe, who is learned to be named Beloved. 124 is barely referred to as there home, instead just simply referred to as 124.
This number 124 plays a bigger meaning in the novel than simply a house number. When taking a look at Sethe’s children: Howard, Buglar, Beloved and Denver, a relationship is brought upon between her four children and 124. Howard and Buglar left 124, Sethe killed Beloved, and that leaves only Denver to take care of. Sethe killed Beloved in order to escape slavery for herself and for her children. Howard and Buglar, the two eldest children, then left when they became a little older because they could not stand the haunted house. This leaves only the fourth child with Sethe. The first, second, and fourth children are alive. 1, 2, and 4. Beloved is the dead third child. It seems as if Beloved is left out, and this feeling of being left out is very evident in Beloved’s personality when we meet her later in the novel. The actual house 124 symbolizes the continuation of slavery brought upon through physical means. It cannot be called home to these characters because the haunting by the dead third child, Beloved, is directly related to the past of slavery, which seems to haunt these characters continuously. The character of Beloved is physical mean to represent the after effects of slavery. Her haunting causes the characters feel enslaved and isolated in 124. Morrison also portrays Beloved to be important to the house of 124 in another way. When adding up the numbers in 124 the amount is seven. That is also the amount of letters in the name Beloved. Morrison does this to put an emphasis on the importance of Beloved and how her ghost represents the past of slavery
Through the actions of the characters a revival of the evils of slavery are evident in 124. Sethe flees from Sweet Home, where she is enslaved, in order to lead a life as a “free” woman. She wanted the best for her children and for herself. When Sethe arrived at 124, Howard, Buglar, Denver and Baby Suggs were already there. Sethe delivered Denver on her journey to 124 to reunite with the rest of her family. The life at 124, with Sethe, her children and Baby Suggs seems to be a recreation of life as slaves. Death, running away, loneliness, and not being free are all issues that slaves deal with. These issues of slavery are continued in life at 124, even though none of the characters there are slaves. The first death is the murder of Beloved by her mother. Because of this death, Baby Suggs soon dies, and Howard and Buglar run away. They can not handle feeling enslaved in 124 any longer. This leaves only Denver and Sethe to live in 124. Because of the feeling of enslavement that Beloved’s ghost brings up them while living in 124 they both isolate themselves from the rest of the community. They feel complete loneliness. These actions by the characters at 124 are a complete replay of the roles that many slaves played.
Three is also an important reference to number in this novel as well as a psychological means to show the continuation of slavery on these characters. I recently learned in drama class about the use of the Holy Trinity with the ancient Egyptians and ancient Greeks. The trinity is powerful and carries strength. Morrison in Beloved uses the three as a trinity. The first trinity is the actual book itself. The novel is made up of three numbered parts, instead of numbered chapters. The emphasis is on the three numbered parts rather then individual chapters
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