Reading Trauma Through Color College

Toni Morrison’s 1987 novel Beloved deals heavily with the theme of trauma. The numerous traumas of the novel are explored mainly through instances of haunting, whether this be mental in the form of dissociation and recurring memories or physical as demonstrated mainly by the continued physical presence of the child who Sethe killed with her own hands – Beloved. Morrison most often portrays haunting as a phenomena which disrupts Western normative ideas of finite space and linear time, occurring when past trauma causes physical spaces and ‘finished’ experiences to be transposed onto what is perceived as the present. Though this is a major method of representing trauma and haunting in the novel – two themes which are so intertwined as to be nearly inseparable – Morrison also employs other more subtle ways of characterizing trauma. In particular, the use of the color red becomes essential when exploring the nature of trauma, namely whether Morrison casts the experience of systematic violences such as slavery as creating a narrative of trauma which belongs to the collective or the individual. I intend to begin exploring this question by briefly examining the significance of the color red as it is described in relation to the traumas...

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