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Thoughts on Toni Morrison’s Beloved

Updated: Apr 24, 2020

What is, or who is  Beloved? Is she a runaway slave or is she the ghost of Sethe’s dead baby she cast away in the river? What does she represent metaphorically and physically?

The identity of Beloved is without a doubt a mystery that encompasses the entire length of Toni Morrison’s much-loved novel entitled Beloved. This central question is especially important considering that this character’s name also serves as the title of the novel itself. Therefore, who or what the is Beloved supposed to be? When readers first encounter Beloved it seems that she is a runaway slave in need of a place to stay. However, as time passes the text begins to ask questions regarding her true identity and overall purpose. In fact, as time moves forward Beloved begins to exhibit characteristics of a baby which in some ways has led many to believe that she is the reincarnation of Sethe’s deceased child. This theory could be supported by two large pieces of evidence among others. when she first arrives Beloved is dripping wet. She also happens to be the same age the deceased child would be if the child hadn’t died in the first place.

While her physical existence is worth questioning, her symbolism is rather clear in nature. Beloved as a character embodies the past coming back to haunt those in the present. Beloved resembles the child that died 18 ago. Therefore in her rather creepy way, She constantly forces Sethe to tell stories from the past making it impossible for Sethe to escape her past. Beloved also reminds Denver, after years of isolation, what it is like to have a friend. The character also brings a dark angry side out of Paul D that was a result of his horrid past.

Beloved due to her very existence, forces each character in the book to confront their buried emotions and experiences from the past. So, although we are not sure about Beloved’s true physical being, her metaphorical existence is in many ways clear. So, what do you think? Is Beloved a ghost? Is Beloved a runaway slave? What do you think Beloved’s existence represents? What was Toni Morrison’s purpose in creating this character?

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