Having read Beloved previously (and reading it side by side with Angela Davis) I found myself really focusing on gender relations during my second read through. I found Sethe and Paul D’s relationship incredibly interesting especially when Halle is brought into the conversation. One of the things that Paul D offers Sethe is a type of stability that has been lost for some time now. For example, upon his first visit Paul embraces Sethe, kissing her chokecherry tree scar as she melts in his arms. However, he refers to her as Halle’s girl throughout the book.
Paul was incredulous upon realizing that Sethe and Denver were living alone without a man. I feel that part of this is connected to male protectionism but I also must consider the time frame that this was written in. Women simply did not have the same opportunities, resources, or mobility that men did, regardless of race.
One of the things that always struck me by this novel is the sheer strength of the female characters. Reading Sethe’s account of her abuse and escape, both while pregnant, dumbfounded me. The pain she described in not being able to provide her infant with her milk, and having it being stolen from her by her abusers brought me to tears. I was struck in the face with emotion, namely sorrow. I couldn’t ignore Sethe’s plight as I realized it was not only a great American story, but a story of all women (especially mother and daughters) around the world.
My reading of Beloved this week reminded me of this quote from an anonymous writer, “To my mother, May every tear that has ever fallen from your tired eyes on my behalf become a river for you in Paradise.”