Black Women Writers @ Southwestern University

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

The Trauma of Paul D and Sethe

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In Beloved, by Toni Morrison, most of the characters experience some type of trauma in their life. Sethe goes through multiple traumas, such as: being a slave, being raped, and Sethe having to kill one of her children to prevent her daughter from having to be taken captive into slavery. Paul D also experiences trauma of being raped, watching his friend being killed, and also going through slavery. Both of these characters try to push their trauma away, to the back of their mind where they might never remember what horrible things they went through, but experiences like that can’t be forgotten. Paul D and Sethe learn  that no matter how much they fight their memories, they will resurface and come back with full force. Their trauma comes out in different ways; for Sethe it is distancing herself from society, giving Beloved all her attention to the point she no longer cares about anything else. Paul D’s trauma shows itself in the way that he can never stick to one place for a long period of time, and how he can never fully open his tin can of a heart completely to others. The best way to deal with trauma like what they have experienced is by facing it, and especially for Sethe to see that despite the awful things they have seen, and the things that have been done to them they are still worthy to be loved and to love others. At the end of the book Paul D and Sethe realize that they can lean on each other for strength, and that it isn’t them against the rest of the world anymore.


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