Black Women Writers @ Southwestern University

An English / Feminist Studies / Race & Ethnicity Studies Course Blog

Questions about Beloved’s Identity

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One thing that jumped out at me while reading the last half of Beloved was the fact that, though it seemed very clear Beloved was indeed the revenant of Sethe’s murdered baby by the things she says and does (asking about Sethe’s lost earrings, humming a tune that only Sethe’s children could have possibly known), and I had easily accepted that as a fact of the book, something Stamp Paid and Ella talked about made me question this.

I believe it is Stamp Paid (I can’t for the life of me find this conversation, though) who asks Ella if she knows who the third girl in 124 is, and they remark that she might be a girl from a neighboring town who was imprisoned in a white man’s house her whole life and had just recently escaped, near the same time Beloved showed up on Sethe’s doorstep. It’s implied she was raped or abused by the owners of the house, and that she was locked up for years is fairly explicit. Beloved, in her disconnected musings on pages 210-217, mentions time and time again that she is trapped in a space of darkness and heat, and that a man with no skin (presumably a white man) hurts her, and that a man’s face is always on top of hers. We discussed this in class and theorized that she was ‘recollecting’ Middle Passage in a sort of collective memory. I was wondering if perhaps we could also theorize that Beloved was also somehow the girl locked in the white man’s house a town over. Sethe killed Beloved to save her from a life of rape and physical and emotional abuse, she indirectly and directly says so throughout the novel. Are we perhaps supposed to understand that even though Sethe killed her she had that exact life of torment she would have had anyway through some sort of cruel magic similar to the kind that brought her back from the dead? Can we theorize that perhaps she and this girl are one and the same through collective memory as well, or that at least Beloved has somehow seen through her eyes?

I’ve been wondering about that. I’m not sure how adequately I expressed this theory, but I would love to hear the thoughts of others on it.

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2 thoughts on “Questions about Beloved’s Identity

  1. UHHHH snaps for you. This observation is brilliant!! Also I just got to pg 249 and it got so INTENSE directly relating to the presumed theory about rememory of The Middle Passage. Also the collective thing relates perfectly to what you said. Maybe Morrison is trying to show various perspectives of black oppression from the past/present? An abused girl exposed to rape, neglect, and inevitably trauma..a slave in the Middle Passage neglected of any personal identity..a slave mother who kills her daughter to save her from slavery rape and trauma..and also the metaphorical representation for all slaves and their experiences. Your connection to Stamp Paid and Ella’s convo was so intriguing. Can’t wait to see what follows.

  2. Spot on, Hannah… I reflect on our conversation had and then this post above…
    Again, I think this ultimately expresses the intensity and the generality of all trauma: Middle Passage, Beloved, the girl locked in the tower, etc. Beloved is in all experiences and all experiences are within her, especially if we theorize that she is the projection of the community’s trauma.

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