A Mothers Love

A Mothers Love The idea of a ghost story or horror story has long since been
introduced into the world of American literature starting in the late 18th
century. These works played with the idea of life after death and its effects on
the present. The term gothic or gothic horror has been used to describe this
form of literature. The literary meaning of the gothic style of is hard to
define, but to give it a simple meaning the gothic is when the supernatural
encounters the natural. In the novel Beloved by Toni Morrison this form of the
gothic is used. The story involves Sethe, an ex-slave, whom the ghost of her
dead daughter haunts. The ghost of this novel is a two year old who is young in
age, yet strong in power. The character Sethe, is based on the real life story
of the slave Margaret Garner. On Jan. 28, 1856, Garner killed her two-year-old
daughter rather than have her sent back to slavery due to the fugitive slave
law. Garner was later found guilty and sent back to the plantation she fled in
Mississippi. The story of Beloved delves into the most painful part of the
African American heritage, slavery. The memory of this horrifying time is
presented in what Morrison calls “rememory”-- actively making the past real
in the present. The novel is set during the Reconstruction(1870-1890) which
follows the Civil War and emancipation. Much of the characters’ pain occurs as
they themselves try to “reconstruct” their families, communities and their
own sense of identity. While this novel has been compared many times to that of
a slave narrative, Morrison chooses to use the gothic to tell her story. Yes
this novel does use slave narrative form, but it explores a greater range with
the gothic. Morrison chooses to use the gothic because it allows her to explore
the true effects of her characters and their effects on each other. The novel is
broken into three major parts. As part one opens Morrison introduces the house
with, “124 was spiteful. Full of baby’s venom. The woman knew it and so did
the children” (Morrison 3). Immediately the reader is thrown into this house
with a ghost that is spiteful. The only surviving members of the family are
Denver, the child Sethe was carrying in her escape to freedom, and Sethe. They
live in this house alone with no visitors for eighteen years, until Paul D, a
former slave from the same plantation as Sethe comes to see them. Paul D
instantly gets rid of the horrifying presence that has consumed this house for
so long, and up to this point had only been physical as red light. With this
sense of relief Paul D, Sethe, and Denver go to the local fair. Later they
return home to find a mystical woman who is referred to as “Beloved”. Denver
identifies the woman as the returned ghost in now human flesh and receives her
as a sister. This is where the novel begins to take on its own existence.
Beloved becomes the focus of everyone’s attention. Beloved has both mental and
physical difficulties. Parts of her body threaten to fall off; some teeth do
fall out. She has a scar on her throat. Her infrequent speech is childish.
Although apparently she is a stranger, Beloved knows intimate things about Sethe,
one of which includes the lullaby that Sethe sang to her babies. Denver takes a
great liking to Beloved. Having been isolated for so many years, Denver finally
feels that she has a friend. Soon, however, she is frightened to discover that
the spirit is covertly attacking Sethe. For example, while pretending to massage
Sethe neck, Beloved tries to choke her. Paul D on the other hand, dislikes
Beloved but finds her sexually irresistible. Under some kind of spell or
conjure, he has sex with her. The presence of this ghost now in human form thus
disrupts every relationship. With this “rebirth” of Beloved, Sethe is forced
to remember the past. Sethe now beings her emotional journey form slavery to
freedom. At first, Sethe recalls only being shown a mark under her Ma’am
breast as a way to identify her. This mark was probably the result of ritual
scarification, an African tribe that recognizes an person’s transition into
adulthood with a visible sign that they belong to a particular tribe. When Ma’am
was lynched and burned, her body is too badly damaged that he mark does not
show. Symbolically, slavery has wiped out African identity. Another critical
part of identity is