Morrison’s Beloved provides a literary account on African-American tradition that allows the author to create an intense representation and analysis of slavery in American history. At this point, Morrison implicitly criticizes historical and ritual methods based on healing and spiritual influence that shapes the basis of upbringing. From this viewpoint, the author reconstructs the conceptual knowledge, as well as historical background, to confront the spiritual oppression and intellectual persistence of African-Americans.
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In such a manner, the novel widens the concept of freedom and provides a new meaning of such words as ‘rememory’ and ‘disremember.’ In particular, although Seth’s new life is deprived of slavery, her memories and her past do not allow her to forget her identity and her affiliation to Sweet Home. The words ‘rememory’ and ‘disremember’ provide strong opposition to Sethe’s inner struggle with her psychological recovery and her attitude to the role of slavery in the nation’s welfare.
In the novel, Morrison builds the connection between the heroine’s inner confrontation and the general recovery process of the American nation that sets codes and rights for former slaves. Sethe, the protagonist of the story, constantly resorts to her past, although she is not reluctant to rememorize it: “if you go there – you who was never there – if you go there and stand in the place where it was – it will happen again; it will be there waiting for you” (Morrison 42).
To explain this issue, Krumholz remarks in her analysis, “Sethe’s process of healing in Beloved…is a model for the readers who must confront Seth’s past as part of our past…that lives right here where we live” (395). At this point, the proposed interpretations refer to the ideas that past traumas and challenges continue affecting consciousness indefinitely and, therefore, it is possible to recollect unhappy and destructive moments.
Even though Sethe relates to future tense, she underscores the inevitability of the presence of memories. She features the past as a physical construct, which also confirms the materiality of American history. By recovering memories and recognizing their physical presence, Morrison amplifies the inevitability of the bond between national history and individual perception.
On the one hand, Sethe’s strong desire to ‘disremember’ the past imposes a serious psychological pressure. On the other hand, ‘rememory’ of Seth’s previous life at Sweet Home prevents her from forgetting her murdered daughter. Nevertheless, the heroine denies the past and, therefore, she strives to get the best future for her children.
As she sees the threat to her daughter’s future, she decides to kill her and provide a better ‘afterlife’ rather than let her be doomed to live in Sweet Home: “Collected every bit of life she had made, all the parts of her that were precious and fine and beautiful…dragged them through the veil” (Morrison 190). It is clear from the passage that Seth establishes a slight distinctions between death and life.
Also, the passage indicates Sethe’s comparison of her children with the most precious part of her being. So, taking Sethe’s children away from her would mean destroying everything she loved and praised in her life. Although Sethe’s murder is considered a morally unjustified act, the emphasis is still placed on the criticism of slavery as the ‘rememorized’ past that ruins her future.
In Beloved, Morrison makes use of supernatural rituals and traditions to shape the reality in which characters live (Krumholz 397). In particular, Morrison provides the novel with the possibility to transform and build individual perception, as well as influence the characters’ social relations. The ritual method implies a certain strategy for learning epistemology in which knowledge construct depends on the spiritual context.
Despite her faith in the healing power of ritual, Morrison reconstructs the parallels between the fragments of Sethe’s emotional and psychological recovery. At this point, Krumholz stresses, “personal and historical past is retrieved and reconstructed” (400). At this point, the author employs narrative techniques, such as repetition, to make a transition to the ritual dynamics within the novel retrospective.
Moreover, the presence of the supernatural becomes the major obstacle for Sethe to ‘disremember’ the past and lead a life in a new place free from slavery. About the above-presented consideration, the concept of ‘rememory’ stands at the core of ritual, which corresponds to several episodes in the novel. In the first episode, Paul D tries to make Sethe return to reality and ignore any supernatural influence on her consciousness.
The second section is dedicated to Sethe’s constant searching for reconciliation, which makes her overwhelmed with her past mistakes. The presence of Beloved complicates the heroine’s attempt to overcome the grief and forces her to suffer from the pain. The final episode refers to the forcing out of Beloved from the community to allow Beth to reconcile with her experiences and recognize the situation from a different angle.
The evidence from the text shows that slavery experiences “are accumulated through fragmented recollections, culminating in the revelation of Sethe’s murder of her child” (Krumholz 400). Subsequent episodes introduce the process of Seth’s realization of the impossibility to restore the past, as well as her final relief from the previous experience.
Therefore, the concept of ‘rememory’ and ‘disremember’ are involved in the process of Seth’s re-evaluation of her past deeds. In the novel, Morrison focuses on the concept of memory as the means of recollecting and bringing together the members of Seth’s family. To do that, the heroine has to cross spatial and time boundaries. Also, memory is presented as an unpredictable process related to spiritual and material space.
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Beloved starts the process of heroine’s gradual reconciliation and psychological cleansing. Seth’s ‘rememory’ sets the ground for the transformative process of the spiritual self in the real world. In the novel, Morrison remarks, “trust and memory, yes, the way she believed it could when he cradled her before the cooking store” (114).
By introducing the historic flashbacks, the author explains that the future and present tense cannot exist without the past because the latter creates identity and belonging. In conclusion, Morrison introduces the concept of ‘rememory’ and ‘disremember’ to explain Seth’s constant struggle with her past, as well as her reconciliation with the future, being an integral component of her identity.
In particular, Sethe undergoes three stages of realization by engaging in the ritual of healing. From this viewpoint, the heroine’s psychological pressure strongly correlates with historical recovery. The history of slavery is possible to reconsider through Sethe’s experience, as well as her struggle with fears.
In this context, Beloved is the obstacle that does not allow Sethe to relieve from the grief. In general, the story creates a new understanding of how the African-American community managed to overcome the slavery period in American history.
Krumholz, Linda. “The Ghosts of Slavery: Historical Recovery in Toni Morrison’s Beloved.” African American Review 3 (1992): 395. Print.
Morrison, Tony. Beloved. US: Vintage, 2004. Print.