A Tree On Her Back Beloved Essay

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A Tree On Her Back, Beloved Essay, Research Paper For Morrison, history is a subject that she often reflects upon in the novel Beloved. One obvious connection between history and her novel is the inescapable horror of slavery and the impact it has on the characters, especially Sethe. At first glance, the tree on Sethe’s back appears to represent nothing more than scars from a past beating. However, when analyzed more closely, the tree illustrates the need for characters to cope with the past in order to progress into the future. It is explained in the book that Sethe was robbed of the very breast milk, which was meant for her young baby. She was caught and whipped by the school-teacher’s boys of the plantation, who left her with “a tree on her back,” a physical scar,

a metaphorical reminder of “her sorrow” (p15, 17). This sorrow which the tree represents can be seen through the character of Beloved. As soon as Sethe was reunited with Beloved in the North, she was able to let her nurse; “she enclosed her left nipple with two fingers of her right hand and the child opened her mouth. They hit home together” (p94). The importance of nursing as a bond between mothers and daughters is stressed throughout the book, when, for example Sethe’s mother “went back in rice and Sethe sucked from another woman whose job it was” (p60). The inhumanity of slavery is given power through this distinct example. The emptiness of Sethe’s relationship with her mother increased her maternal compulsions for her own children. Her need to protect them

went so far as to murdering the crawling already? baby because her desire to save her children from receiving the white man’s mark was stronger than her humanity. The baby was brutally murdered, and buried under the headstone “Beloved.” Beloved’s true importance lies in her ability to affect Sethe. The crawling already? baby is related to painful memories, and Beloved personifies the present pain due to those memories. The constant reminder of Sethe’s past, represented by the tree, is an indirect result of the baby’s existence. Sethe lost her sense of identity with the human race when she murdered the baby. The trunk of the tree functions as Sethe’s tortured soul. Sethe’s guilt about her lack of human reason in her attack of the innocent child haunts her later. At

Sweet Home, she caught the school-teacher comparing her to an animal; “put her human characteristics on the left; her animal ones on the right,” he directed his students (p193). After attacking her children, she realizes that she has sunk to the sub-human level dictated by the teacher. This understanding prompts a self-destructive guilt; she will do anything to make things better. Sethe’s guilt allows her no internal peace, and Paul D, an old friend from Sweet Home reminds her “you got two feet, Sethe, not four” (p165). Yet again, she has been compared to an animal. This pain is intolerable, and the only way she can alleviate it is to feed Beloved’s hungry mouth. Beloved as a symbol of Sethe’s wrongdoing allows her to attempt to right this wrong. As Sethe’s

conscience tries to rationalize: “I’ll explain to her, even though I don’t have to. Why I did it. How if I hadn’t killed her she would have died and that is something I could not bear to happen to her. When I explain it she’ll understand, because she understands everything already. I’ll tend to her as no mother ever tended a child, a daughter. Nobody will ever get my milk no more except my own children…Now I can look at things again because she’s here to see them too” (p201). Beloved’s return offers the opportunity for explanation and easing of Sethe’s conscience, although repentance and remorse are not mentioned. Sethe assumes the child’s role and Beloved that of the mother. This development in their relationship is key to the idea that Beloved is