African Roots in Morrison's Beloved

Toni Morrison's one of the central focuses in her novel is about the consciousness of African roots. The racial problem prevailed during the contemporary period includes the holistic formality in African society since long time. So her historical consciousness has been rooted in the novel while exposing the African roots together with the depiction of black's position in the society.

Toni Morrison

Not only historical, even political, social, economic and practical aspects are also associated with the concept of African social reality in the entire novel. The first hand painful experience of the ex-slave is remarkably expressed by Toni Morrison through black narrative.

The technique that Morrison uses while depicting African roots itself is very widely discursive. One can interpret the novel while analyzing the concept of African roots from different perspectives. The very abusive point of departure to see the presentation of Morrison's consciousness of African roots is how the characters have been presented together with the formation of the novel. So we should see the overall formation of the novel with our analytical perspective to get the information about how Morrison evokes the African roots in the novel.

The ultimate lives of slave people are rarely discussed, for the historian has insight into this side of slavery. Since slaves seldom knew how to read or write, there are no written accounts of their history: instead, the ex- slaves and their descendants passed down the tales of slavery through storytelling, which have been largely ignored in history books. In this novel, Morrison gives slave histories from the perspective of ex- slaves, especially from the point of view of Sethe.

The theme of the novel is the need for people, particularly ex- slaves to deal with their painful pasts in order to heal themselves. To develop this theme, Morrison tells the story of Sethe, a female ex- slave, who kills her child in order to save her from the misery of slavery that she has endured. Although she does not spend much time in jail for her crime, she spends most of her life paying for the murder. She is ostracized by the community, haunted by the ghosts of her dead daughter and driven by the painful memories of what she has endured as a slave and inflicted on her children. Lacking mother love herself, Sethe sets out to heal her wounds by being a perfect mother. Unfortunately, slavery defines Sethe and her children as property, which carries a price tag. As a result, Sethe cannot raise and nurture here own offspring, for she is needed to do back breaking labor on the plantation. When she and the children escape from Sweet Home, she can still not nurture or love them properly, for she has no knowledge or experience with child upbringing. She thinks that in trying to kill them, she cares for them, for she believes that the afterlife has to be better than a return to slavery for them.

Throughout the novel, Sethe defines herself by her relationship with her children. As a result, she is filled with a sense of failure. Her eldest daughter comes back as a ghost to haunt and torment her. Her two sons leave home after Baby Suggs dies, for they do not trust Sethe. Her youngest daughter fears her, for Denver believes she is capable of killing again. Sethe must deal with her past in order to understand her relationship with her children. She must come to terms with the horror and pain of what she has endured as a slave child and a slave adult. The presence of Paul D in her life helps her face the past. When he returns to nurse Sethe back to health, he gives her a future by telling her that she alone is her own best thing not her children or her past. As a result, Sethe begins to put her history behind her and look to a future with Paul D.

Morrison identifies America with Sethe, who is trying to bury the sufferings of the past, not giving them a voice and a chance for soothing. America never thinks about slave women who were endlessly raped and molested by the white slave possessors, or about runaway slaves who were burned alive at the post or killed and left to decay on the ropes that killed them. The nation is also like Sethe's community, which neglected her when she was most in need to help. She was treated as a mental abnormality rather than an expected result of her distress. They labeled her as immoral and insane instead of blaming the immorality of the system of slavery that produced her violence.

In this way, whether Morrison takes the reference of the history about the slavery or she takes the reference of social, economic or practical aspects about the prevailed condition of blacks, it is all about her evocation of African roots. By this same token Morrison is very ironic and satiric behind the inhuman behave of their masters towards the blacks and slaves. After all, the entire novel deals with the construction of African roots, though there are different layers of criticism behind the formation of the novel.