Book Reviews

Her sin: Love. A Review of Toni Morrison’s “Beloved”

I have just read this book and I was ready to beat myself for reading it now. How come I hadn’t read it sooner? Toni Morrison is one writer I will classify as deep and intelligent. In her novel Beloved, she brings to the fore the plight of a slave woman who does all she can to protect her family from the cruelty of slave masters. Sethe who is the main character escapes from Sweet Home with her children to join her mother-in-law in Cincinnati. Sethe’s character is one who gives up everything for her children. Her two boys run from home because of the terrifying presence of a ghost in the house who is believed to be the ghost of Sethe’s dead daughter whom she murders just so that her child will escape slavery.

Paul D describes Sethe’s love as too thick. She tells him that thin love ain’t love at all. She endures pain and abandonment because of this singular act. After reading this book, I began to evaluate the concept of motherhood. The bond between mother and child that causes either one to go through extremes just to protect the other and the psychological changes the mother undergoes that causes her to release all of herself to protecting her children. Sethe had seen hardships. She had been beaten, humiliated and abused under Schoolteacher. She would rather her children die than see such cruelty. However, the cruelty in killing her own children doesn’t it make her different from the terrible slave masters that hung her mother. Murder is Murder but is it justifiable based on the motive of love?

It would seem that she gets another chance to mother her dead child again in the supernatural twist in the story. Beloved comes home from the ‘grave’, the age she would have been had she lived. Sethe throws herself into taking care of her daughter who was lost and now is found. Beloved takes this opportunity and practically squeezes life out of Sethe in making demands so much so that Denver, Sethe’s other daughter is somewhat forgotten. Sethe’s act of murder born out of the innocence of her heart haunts her so much that she is arrested, her two boys leave home and Beloved torments her soul till the women of the community come to Sethe’s rescue singing spiritual songs.

A book with depth and passion
A book with depth and passion

I recall in Selasi’s Ghana Must Go, how Folasade had to send her children to stay with her step brother in Nigeria because she could not afford to look after them as a single mother. However, it resulted in her brother making her twins have sexual intercourse in his presence and resulting in Taiye’s (one of the twins) hatred for her mother. I see that the love of a mother for her children can become her own sin and her downfall too. Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood bears semblance to this.

A mother’s love runs deep. It overwhelms and overflows. It is difficult to understand and quantify. It sometimes is irrational. The popular cliche comes to mind, “The things we do for love”. I think that Morrison shows how the inhumanity in slavery destroyed the purity of love between a mother and a child. The gothic depiction and believe me quite scary and parasitic relationship between Beloved and Sethe or even between Denver and Beloved as a result of the sin committed by Sethe makes one wonder, when did love become sin?

If you have not read this book please get a copy and read. You can share your thoughts and comments…

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