The Real Meaning Of ‘Beloved’

In Toni Morrison’s novel Cherished, there is a specific uncertainty surrounding the nature of the titular character. On the surface area, she appears to be a born-again and grown up version of the kid who was killed by Sethe in a designated act of merciful infanticide. Nevertheless, it is likewise possible that she is just a psychologically ill living woman, and perhaps a runaway slave, on whom Sethe inscribes her regret and the memory of her lost kid. In addition to being a character Beloved is also, on a non-literal basis, a sign for the quelched past going back to haunt the present. These multiple possibilities over the nature of Beloved’s presence and identity make her a subject for much dispute.

It is appealing to argue that Beloved is exactly what she is believed to be by the other characters, a supernatural physical symptom of Sethe’s dead child, aged to the point that she would have been had she been enabled to live and grow up. Certainly, the adult Precious appears to be, in many ways, really infantile in her behaviour. For instance, this appears when we’re outlined her “sleepy eyes” [1] and failure to wipe her own dribble off of her chin (60 ). Paula Gallant Eckard highlights this as she argues that “she is incontinent, unable to walk, and constantly sleeps … Beloved needs to relearn whatever and development through the phases of infant development” [2] This supports the concept of Cherished as an incarnation of Sethe’s dead kid, as she looks for the maternal nurturing and teaching that she was rejected in death. The specific fixation which Beloved has on Sethe as a maternal figure even more suggests that she in fact is Sethe’s dead daughter. Denver observes Beloved’s obsessive inclination towards Sethe including “how greedy she was to hear Sethe talk” (72) and the method which she “took every opportunity to ask some funny concern and get Sethe going” (72 ). In reality, Cherished herself even confesses that she came back to “see [Sethe’s] face” (86) which “she is the one” whom Precious requirements (86 ). Gallant Eckard goes on to argue that “Beloved is obsessed with her ‘mom’ to a degree that goes beyond normal mother-child bonds” [3] This might perhaps be an outcome of Beloved’s long hunger of maternal affection. Not only did Sethe stop working to raise Beloved as she did Denver, however she really ended the life that she had actually developed, albeit out of desired mercy. It is not unreasonable to assume that Beloved has actually now returned, due to her yearning for life and for her mother’s support and like. The image of Beloved crawling out of the water can be seen to represent renewal, with the adult precious emerging from the lake much as the baby Beloved as soon as emerged from her mom’s womb. She is “sopping damp” (58) similar to a freshly provided brand-new born. Furthermore, on Sethe’s very first encounter with the adult Beloved, “the minute she got close adequate to see the face, Sethe’s bladder filled to capacity … like flooding the boat when Denver was born” (59 ). This creates undertones of giving birth, many specifically of Sethe’s waters breaking. It recommends that the introduction of Beloved from the water is connected in some method to Sethe’s womb as the sight of Beloved causes Sethe to suffer the beginning of labour related signs, as only a biological child could.

In addition to her infantile demeanour and fixation with Sethe, Beloved likewise seems to strangely state impossible understanding and memories of Sethe’s life. Certainly, the adult Beloved is certainly suspicious, as she appears to know more about Sethe than a complete stranger possibly would. For example, she knows the song that Sethe as soon as sung to her infant, a possible memory from the very first time she lived, and of the short time she had a mother. In addition, Precious asks Sethe about her “diamonds” (67 ). As a servant, it was extremely not likely for Sethe to have actually ever owned diamonds, however was actually offered crystal earrings by her old mistress. By Cherished describing this, it is suggested that she has more of a connection to Sethe than she at first exposes. Referring to them as diamonds rather than crystals likewise suggests that she sees things through the simple and unconcerned eyes of a child, and more particularly Sethe’s child. Cherished pertains to speak as somebody who has been raised from the dead, as she apparently remembers her experience throughout the time between her death and her return. This appears as she tells Sethe that “dead males lay on top of her … ghosts without skin stuck their fingers in her” (281 ). This imagery of death and decay could be a reference either to the afterlife, or to the ground she was buried in which was currently filled with other buried remains. Precious repeatedly verifies that she was somewhere “dark” (86) prior to getting to Sethe’s home. This can be seen to describe a tomb in the ground like the one Sethe’s daughter was put to rest in. In addition, Beloved says that she is “little because location” (86 ). Here it is possible that she is referring to her little, baby sized remains, and the difference she makes between “that location” and the location she is now is highlighted by Kathleen Marks who states that “the child now has 2 houses, the actual grave and Sethe, a womb/ burial place now one with the mourning home of 124” [4] Undoubtedly, Cherished informs Denver that “in the dark [her] name is precious” (86 ). Probably, she could be discussing the gravestone her mother had actually marked with the name ‘Beloved’, leading the child to take it as her own name. It is likewise notable that the household dog is absent when Precious very first arrives, utilising the typical convention of animals being able to sense spirits and keep their distance from them. Precious is referred to as acting sick and sounding sick but not looking sick (65 ), suggesting that, while her body has actually been renewed and completely developed, her mind has not. The description of her “new skin, lineless and smooth” (59) likewise hints at the renewal of her body, as its description is much like that of a new born child’s skin.

Nevertheless, although Beloved is definitely thought to be an actual ghost by characters such as Sethe and Denver, it is debatable whether or not Precious is genuinely supernatural in nature. Certainly, the look of Sethe’s dead daughter could be mental instead of physical, with a mother forecasting her grief and guilt over her act of infanticide onto an entirely various individual. Linda Krumholz highlights this possible analysis by mentioning that “Beloved is Sethe’s ‘ghost’, the return of her repressed past, and she requires Sethe to face the gap between her motherlove and the truths of motherhood in slavery” [5] Undoubtedly, Sethe has clearly lived her life haunted by the memory of her killed child, as apparent from the start of the unique when home 124 is obviously haunted by a non-physical symptom of Sethe’s dead child. Here, Sethe tells Denver that the ghost infant’s power is “no more powerful than the way [Sethe] liked her” (2 ). She likewise refuses to leave the house, and informs Paul D that this is because she will “never ever run from another thing on this earth” (15 ). Here it is evident that Sethe regrets her past actions, and does not want to leave the thing she believed to be her kid motherless all over again. If it is to be accepted that Beloved is not really supernatural in nature, then the concern of the physical lady’s real identity is still unanswered. Although many of her quirks and behaviours appear infantile and typically disturbing, this might well be an outcome of mental injury instead of resurrection. Daniel Erickson highlights this unpredictability by mentioning that “The infantile characterization of Beloved … the extremely includes that suggest that she is the ghost of the kid, likewise support the contrasting thesis that she is a runaway slave, who has been locked up for most of her life” [6] Undoubtedly, this is at very first her assumed identity by the other characters as Paul D just believes that “a young coloured lady wandering was drifting from destroy” (60 ). Beloved’s aforementioned claims of dead guys laying on top of her and ghostly fingers being penetrated her might well be her memory of being raped, and the added inclusion of dead guys and ghostly fingers could be a fabrication caused by trauma. The fingers she refers to as being without skin, could be her way of interpreting the white skin of slavers who attacked her. The method which Cherished herself comes to determine as Sethe’s dead baby could be an outcome of her traumatised, maybe amnesiac, mind taking in the memories predicted onto her by Sethe.

Whether Beloved is alive or a ghost, a baby or a homeless lady, are concerns which are ultimately of less significance. What is of more value is what she represents. The genuine question is not of who Beloved is, it is of what she is, with what she is being a sign. Precious can be viewed as an embodiment of the past. She is frequently analyzed as being a ghost, both by Sethe’s family and by critics. She is more than the ghost of a departed child, she is a symbol for the way in which the characters are haunted by their distressing pasts, much as a house might be haunted by a ghost. They have actually buried their pasts, much like Sethe as soon as buried her kid. Krumholz argues that” [Morrison] makes the previous haunt today through the confused and overwelming character of Cherished” [7] Undoubtedly, when Sethe is around Beloved she becomes totally transfixed by her, and in turn, with the past. Throughout the unique, both the dead kid and the traumatic pasts of those Beloved enters into contact with are uncovered and have to be handled. In this way, Beloved is almost a recovery force, enabling the characters to reform their fragmented identities by facing their servant pasts. Denver’s observation of how Beloved “took every chance to ask some funny question and get Sethe going” (73) not just highlights Beloved’s fascination with Sethe, but likewise the method which she coaxes out stories of memories Sethe had actually kept surprise and declined to mention.

Although it is clear that Beloved is a representation of the past and its influence on the private characters, she also holds a much broader significance. As Carolyn Foster Segal states, “that the title character of Toni Morrison’s Beloved is a composite character is clear” [8] Indeed, Beloved is more than a character, she is an allegory for slavery itself, and the composite of the traumatic experiences lots of black people suffered due to the fact that of it. No matter whether she is the ghost of a baby killed by its mother to save it from slavery, or a living black woman subjected to captivity and rape by slavers, she stands as a character who is a servant and who has suffered unimaginably since of it. Her return after years of being dead conveys the message that the experience of slavery, even after one had gotten away or been freed, would stick with an individual for life haunting them just like a ghost. Krumholz argues that “Beloved pertains to represent the repressed memories of slavery, both for the characters and for the readers” [9] Certainly, Beloved, along with embodying servant related torment, likewise serves to bring to the surface the dark memories of slavery for Paul D and Sethe. For instance, as she seduces Paul D in the barn, he thinks through a string of dreadful memories he had buried inside. Heerak Christian Kim argues that “Morrison successfully uses the genre aspect of scary to maintain crucial previous memory of the African-American community and to help today identity of the neighborhood” [10] Undoubtedly, the horror surrounding Beloved’s look at house 124, and the history behind Sethe’s dead child, efficiently delineates the suffering that black individuals have undergone throughout history. Undoubtedly, Christian Kim goes on to state that “contrary to the superficial surface reading, the best horror is not a mother eliminating her kid. True horror is the injustice of slavery” [11] The concept of Cherished as a cumulative sign rather than a physical character is supported by the footprints in the woods mentioned in the final chapter of the book. The footprints the ghostly Precious leaves are described as being “so familiar. Needs to a kid, an adult, position his feet in them, they will fit” (321 ). This highlights that the tragic loss of life suffered by Beloved at the hands of her mother mirrors the loss of life suffered by all condemned to slavery. Although they may not all have lost their lives in the very same physical sense as Beloved, they lost their flexibility, their ownerships, their loved ones and were by force taken from their native houses. The footprint significance further highlights the cumulative suffering caused by slavery, as the storyteller says that if the individual who had positioned their feet into the footprints were to “take [their feet] out they vanish once again as though no one ever walked there” (321 ). This can be taken to represent the dehumanization which servants underwent, being dealt with like animals instead of individuals. Likewise, Sethe’s child is never actually called in the book. Precious is the name of the adult woman, however that is simply what was etched into the child’s gravestone, highlighting the loss of identity which lots of slaves experienced. White slavers seldom referred to slaves by their names, leading them to end up being estranged from their humankind and identity. Additionally, Krumholz also mentions that “Beloved is likewise everybody’s ghost” [12] Indeed, although she stands as a representation of those subjected to slavery, the previous she represents is shared by everybody. Through the character of Beloved, the reader is driven to challenge the past of slavery simply as much as the characters. In a post slavery world where the horrors are frequently forgotten, Morrison utilizes a characters supposed return from the dead to reveal that even if a scary is in the past, does not suggest the consequences are. Krumholz argues that “Beloved is the Reader’s ghost requiring us to deal with the historic past as a living and vindictive existence” [13]

In conclusion, Cherished certainly is, to an extent, a physical character and is the core driving force of the story. The value of her physical existence in the book is highlighted by Krumholz, who argues that “Beloved can not simply be minimized to a symbol as she controls the characters with her sweet, spiteful and engulfing presence” [14] Who she is remains unclear throughout, as she is never explicitly identified as a supernatural entity or as a living female. Total nevertheless, her physical identity in the book is irrelevant, as it is not ‘who’ she is which is necessary, but rather ‘what’ she represents. Indeed, Precious truly stands as a sign for the horrors of slavery, and a past which can not be forgotten or removed even in a post-slavery world.


CHRISTIAN KIM, Heerak. Toni Morrison’s Beloved as African-American Bible & & Other Articles on History and Canon. Philadelphia: The Hermit Kingdom Press, 2006.

ERICKSON, Daniel. Ghosts, Metaphor and History in Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

FOSTER SEGAL, Carolyn. “Morrison’s Beloved”. In Explicator Volume 51, 59-61. London: Taylor and Francis, 1992.

GALLANT ECKARD, Paula. Maternal Body and Violence in Toni Morrison, Bobbie Ann Mason and Lee Smith. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2002.

KRUMHOLZ, Lisa. “The Ghosts of Slavery: Historic Healing in Toni Morrison’s Beloved“. In Toni Morrison’s Beloved: A Casebook, modified by William L. Andrews and Nellie Y. McKay, 107-126. New York City: Oxford University Press, 1999.

MARKS, Kathleen. Toni Morrison’s Beloved and the Apotropaic Creativity. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2002.

MORRISON, Toni. Cherished. London: Vintage Classics, 2007. Kindle Edition.

[1] Toni Morrison, Beloved (London: Vintage Classics, 2007), 60, Kindle Edition. [2] Paula Gallant Eckard, Maternal Body and Violence in Toni Morrison, Bobbie Ann Mason, and Lee Smith (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2002), 69. [3] Gallant Eckard, Maternal Body and Violence, 69. [4] Kathleen Marks, Toni Morrison’s Beloved and the Apotropaic Imagination (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2002), 50. [5] Linda Krumholz, “The Ghosts of Slavery: Historical Healing in Toni Morrison’s Beloved“, in Toni Morrison’s Beloved: A Casebook, ed. William L. Andrews and Nellie Y. McKay (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 115. [6] Daniel Erickson, Ghosts, Metaphor and History in Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 83. [7] Krumholz, “The Ghosts of Slavery”, 115. [8] Carolyn Foster Segal, “Morrison’s Beloved”, in Explicator Volume 51 (London: Taylor and Francis, 1992), 59. [9] Krumholz, “The Ghosts of Slavery”, 115. [10] Heerak Christian Kim, Toni Morrison’s Beloved as African-American Scripture & & Other Articles on History and Canon (Philadelphia: The Hermit Kingdom Press, 2006), 28. [11] Christian Kim, Toni Morrison’s Beloved as African-American Bible, 27. [12] Krumholz, “The Ghosts of Slavery”, 115. [13] Krumholz, “The Ghosts of Slavery”, 115. [14] Krumholz, “The Ghosts of Slavery”, 115.

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