Beloved


Escaping from the Past in Unity

Toni Morrison's Beloved, is a book about a community made up of individuals running away from their pasts. In meeting a few of those individuals and learning how and what they are running from, it becomes obvious that no one can deal successfully with the burden of past memories alone. Those who attempt to face their troubles alone wind up tiring out and giving up, as is demonstrated by Baby Suggs. Sethe and Paul D however, try to fight back the past only to realize it cannot be done alone. After doing so, they find that with the community or a loved one to "encourage you to put some of your weight in their hands," the present becomes tolerable and a future possible regardless of the past (22).
Baby Suggs, a prominent figure in the community with an intolerable present and past, learned early on what it was like to be left alone to deal with difficulties. When the community that had served as her strength withdrew its support, because they were angry and had taken offense to the "uncalled-for-pride" Baby flaunted when her grandchildren and daughter-in-law were finally together, she no longer felt the support (137). As if the weakness Baby was suffering from their disapproval was not enough, the family was hit with another blow, when Sethe was imprisoned. As Sethe is being taken away by the sheriff, the community who was already looking unfavorably upon the family's pride, asked the questions: "Was her head a bit too high? Her back a little too straight?" (152). These questions foreshadowed how, as long as 124 continued to be prideful, the community would keep their support withdrawn from the family that lived within. As a result, Baby Suggs, Sethe and the rest of the family was left to deal with their trials alone.
Hence, Baby who at one time found her strength in the community, lost that sense of belonging, her strength then died leading to her giving up the fight.
Her past was like her present - intolerable, and since she knew death was anything but forgetfulness, she used the little energy left her for pondering colors.(4)

Without the community, Baby Suggs stopped looking towards a future and relinquished her fight to ponder color, an occupation that took no energy on her part and that she could accomplish without anyone's help.
Similarly, Sethe was left to deal with her problems alone, rather than giving up however, she threw herself into keeping what she has left and in protecting her family from the past. "To Sethe, the future was a matter of keeping the past at bay. The 'better life' she believed she and Denver were living was simply not that other one" (42). Sethe's equation for a future meant subtracting or running away from the past at all costs, this task proved to be extremely difficult and taxing on Sethe, for
Not only did she have to live out her years in a house palsied by the baby's fury at having its throat cut, but those ten minutes she spent pressed up against dawn-colored stone studded with star chips, her knees wide open as the grave, were longer than life, more alive, more pulsating than the baby blood that soaked her fingers like oil. (5)

With Sethe, determined to never run away again as she did from Home Sweet Home, she is left to deal with the past while in 124. Being left to deal with such terrible memories alone, in a sense plagued by them, Sethe is found doing all she can to keep any more horrid pieces of her past from surfacing.
In talking with Paul D about Home Sweet Home and their past, Sethe says: "but it's where we were, All together. Comes back whether we want it to or not" (14). The way Sethe personifies the past as if it was a demon who shows up without warning to wreak havoc on the one possessed, is an image that continues to come up throughout the book. In fact, Sethe has difficulty in dealing with the past so much so, that she expends all of her energy on it, leaving little to build a future. "Her brain was not interested in the future. Loaded with the past and hungry for