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Home » , » Beloved as a trauma narrative

Narrative memory is the process of experiencing events, storing, recounting, comprehending, and then assimilating. We use narrative memory to integrate our experiences and to maintain our psychic lives as a unified whole. However, only some occasions in our lives can be easily recounted and integrated into the memory system, People who experience traumatic events encounter problems in recounting their memories in a linear and unified way, and assimilating them into their personal history. For example, in Beloved, the characters’ narratives of their experiences, affected by their traumatic memory, are fragmented. 

Psychoanalysts adopt this term to represent an unrecoverable psychic shock caused by accidents. In Beloved, trauma is pervasive. As a novel about slavery, Beloved depicts the atrocities of slavery, which traumatizes most of the characters. Baby Suggs says, “Not a house in the country ain’t packed to its rafters with some dead Negro’s grief”, Being a survivor of slavery, Baby Suggs has eight children but “four taken, four chased”, She spends her life working in the plantation and when she is free from slavery, she decides to “lay it all down”, She preaches at “the Clearing” to other blacks but after seeing Sethe kill Beloved, she gives up. Her faith, her love, her imagination, and her great big old heart began to collapse twenty-eight days after her daughter-in-law arrived. Other slaves have the same miserable experiences. Paul D has been put an iron bit in his mouth, chained together with forty-five slaves in Alfred, Georgia, and almost drowned in muddy water. 

Stamp Paid is forced to share his wife Vashti with the slave owner. Halle goes insane at Sweet Home because he witnesses Sethe being abused by the schoolteacher and his two nephews. Sethe, the protagonist of Beloved, is whipped at Sweet Home, leaving tree-form scars on her back. However, these miserable experiences, given their traumatic characteristics, cannot be assimilated into the character’s personal history. Being unable to be discharged, the traumatic experiences fix on the characters’ psychic lives and disturb them thereafter. Baby Suggs, after being traumatized, “grew tired, went to bed, and stayed there until her big old heart quit. Except for an occasional request for color she said practically nothing”. Paul D tells Sethe that he would never “be Paul D again, living or dead. Schoolteacher changed me. I was something else”. Suffering from her traumatic memory, Sethe stays in the past and gives up hope for the future. Her brain was not interested in the future. 

Loaded with the past and hungry for more, it left her no room to imagine, let alone plan for, the next day. Trauma not only depresses the traumatized subject but also drives her/him to the corner and forces her/him to do something irrational. When the schoolteacher goes to 124, Sethe, driven by her traumatic experiences, gathers her children to the woodshed and tries to kill them all for her reluctance to let them grow up in slavery. Denver, like all other characters, suffers from her own traumatic experiences. Being asked about Beloved’s death, Denver begins to fix on the baby ghost.


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