Beloved short answer essay

How does Beloved function as an alter ego for Sethe?

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In Beloved, Sethe persistently conflates her identity with that of her child. Sethe inadvertently named Beloved after herself. When the minister at her daughter’s funeral addressed the living (including Sethe) as “Dearly Beloved,” she believed he was referring to her dead daughter. Rather than engraving her child’s real name on her tombstone, she engraved “Beloved,” a name that now refers both to herself and to the baby. Sethe feels debased and dehumanized by her experiences as a slave and thus cannot love herself. Instead, she puts all the energy that should be spent on loving herself into loving her children. Her own identity is defined entirely in terms of motherhood. Sethe herself cannot conceive of the word “beloved” as referring to herself but only to her child; she regards her children as the “best part” of herself. Because Beloved’s name refers to Sethe as well, and because Sethe defines her children as part of herself, Beloved functions as a sort of alter ego for Sethe.

Beloved also functions on a more general level as Sethe’s repressed memories, as her personal past. As such, she is another sort of alter ego. Beloved is the self that Sethe has tried to forget, to discard. When Sethe finally learns to confront her memories, she rejoins and comes to terms with her past self.