This essay has a total of 1371 words and 9 pages.



Toni Morrison's, Beloved, is a complex narrative about the love between mothers

and daughters, and the agony of guilt. " It is the ultimate gesture of a loving mother. It is

the outrageous claim of a slave." These are the words, of Toni Morrison, used to describe

the actions of Sethe, the central character in the novel. She, a former slave, chooses to kill

her baby girl rather then let her live a life in slavery. In preventing her from the physical

and emotional horrors of slavery, Sethe has put herself in to a realm of physical and

emotional pain: guilt. And in understanding her guilt we can start to conceive her

motivations for killing her third nameless child. Did Beloved's death come out of love or

selfish pride? In preventing her child from going into slavery, Sethe, too, protected herself,

she prevented herself from re-entering captivity. In examining Sethe's character we can

see that her motivations derive from her deep love towards her children, and from the lack

of love for herself. Sethe's children are her only good quality. Her children are a part of

her and in killing one she kills a part of herself. What hinders over Sethe is her refusal to

accept responsibility for her baby's death. Does she do this because she is selfishness or

because it need not be justified? Sethe's love is clearly displayed by sparing her daughter

from a horrific life, yet, Sethe refuses to acknowledge that her show of compassion is also


Throughout the work, seems to have two separate identities, which affect her

actions. When reunited with Paul D., Sethe recalls her reactions to School Teacher's

arrival with no mention to her daughter's death. "Oh, no. I wasn't going back there

[Sweet Home]. I went to jail instead" (42) Sethe believes she made a moral stand in not

letting herself be taken into custody. In her statement she has done two things, she has

disassociated herself from the act, and also morally justified what had happened. When

Paul D, upon finding out what had really happened, confronts Sethe. She again ignores

the issue. "…So when I got here, even before they let me get out of bed, I stitched her a

little something… all I'm saying is that it is a selfish pleasure I never had before. I couldn't

let all that go back to where it was…." (163) Sethe loves her children. But it's that ‘selfish

pleasure' which makes one question her actions. Sethe is living a life she's never known a

life of freedom, freedom from brutality, from fear, and from pain. In killing her daughter

she saved herself, for the second time. Sethe was still free, and she wasn't going back to

Sweet Home, or to School Teacher no matter what the cost. Sethes children were a part

of her, and they were a part she was not going to submit to slavery. They needed to be

protected, because the loss of them meant the loss of Sethe herself. When Sethe saw

School Teacher coming she "collected every bit if life she had made, all the parts of her

that were precious and fine and beautiful, and carried, pushed, dragged them through the

veil, out away, over there where no one could hurt them."(163) Sethe sees no wrong here

because it as though she were killing herself. Saving herself from all the terror she had

already known. I was an act of love, and an act of primordial instinct.

Sethe's needed to protect her babies because her mother didn't protect her. "Sethe

never bonded or connected with her mother, and as a result she devoted her life solely to

her children"(Lewis 120) Sethe's mother "went back in rice and [Sethe] sucked from an

other woman whose job it was" (60). Sethe and her mother never had the intimate bond

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