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Home » » Analyze the character of Sethe

Sethe Suggs is the protagonist of the novel Beloved. Through her Morrison depicts the plight of the black woman in nineteenth century America. In this novel, Toni Morrison shows how the American slavery system drastically affects the life of black community. Sethe struggles daily with the haunting legacy of slavery, in the form of her threatening memories and also in the form of her daughter’s aggressive ghost. For Sethe, the present is mostly a struggle to beat back the past, because the memories of her daughter’s death and the experiences at Sweet Home are too painful for her to recall consciously. 

Sethe is a proud and noble woman. She insists on sewing a proper wedding dress for the first night she spends with Halle, and she finds schoolteacher’s lesson on her “animal characteristics” more debilitating than his nephews’ sexual and physical abuse. Although the community's shunning of Sethe and Baby Suggs for thinking too highly of themselves is unfair. Sethe prefers to steal food from the restaurant where she works rather than wait on line with the rest of the black community. It shows that she does consider herself different from the rest of the blacks in her neighbourhood. Yet, Sethe is not too proud to accept support from others in every case. Despite her independence and her distrust of men, she welcomes Paul D and the companionship he offers. 

Sethe’s most striking characteristic; however, is her devotion to her children. Unwilling to relinquish her children to the physical, emotional, and spiritual trauma she has endured as a slave, she tries to murder them in an act that is, in her mind, one of motherly love and protection. Her memories of this cruel act and of the brutality she herself suffered as a slave infuse her everyday life and Jead her to contend that past trauma can never really be eradicated. It continues, somehow, to exist in the present. She thus spends her life attempting to avoid encounters with her past. Perhaps Sethe’s fear of the past is what leads her to ignore the overwhelming evidence that Beloved is the reincarnation of her murdered daughter. Indeed, even after she acknowledges Beloved’s identity, Sethe shows herself to be still enslaved by the past, because she quickly succumbs to Beloved’s demands and allows herself to be consumed by Beloved. Only when Sethe learns to confront the past head-on, to declare herself in its presence, can she extricate herself from its oppressive power and begin to live freely, peacefully, and responsibly in the present. 

Sethe remains in control in most situations. The likelihood that any female could survive sexual abuse, lashing, thirst, hunger, and childbirth, yet continue to form milk in her breasts, defies scientific evidence. The fact that Sethe accomplishes all these and more is Morrison’s tribute to her determination. Obsessed by the chokecherry tree, Sethe refuses to vacate the house that enslaves her to the nightmare of her dead infant. She wrestles the embodiment of her guilt to a truce so strong, So enduring that a second buggy in the yard resurrects the image of deadly spite that dissatisfied schoolteacher 18 years earlier. 


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