Sethe, a Slave to Her Past

In 1873 slavery had been abolished in Cincinnati, Ohio for ten years. This is the setting in which Toni Morrison places the characters for her powerfully moving novel, Beloved. After the Emancipation Proclamation and after the Civil War, Sethe, the mother who murdered her child to protect her baby from a lifetime of slavery, has yet to know the true meaning of freedom. Such a controversial, hard-to-swallow plot is certain to raise the hairs of many readers. Too often, however, Beloved is critically scrutinized for its 'obviously symbolic storyî and not adequately appreciated for the vivid metaphors, imperative to the understanding of post-civil war slavery (Rumens). Morrisonís intense metaphorical writing serves as a constant reminder of Setheís infinitely enslaved life, bound to her guilt, her past and her horrifically haunting memories.

Morrison's prose is ridden with symbolic meaning, often leaving room for various reader interpretations. While some aspects of the plot are fully developed, explained and interpreted by the author, others are merely alluded to so that the reader can find their own significance in the image Morrison creates.

The numerous reference's to Sethe's 'stolen milkî could be one of...

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