Shades of Meaning: The Importance of Color in Toni Morrison's Beloved

In a novel about racism and slavery, one can not pay too much attention to the matter of colors. In Toni Morrison's Beloved, however, the issue of color is not confined to discussions on race. Blood, ribbon, even roosters, all vividly colored, spot the scenery of the novel and provide valuable insight into the prominent themes of both dehumanization and the struggle for freedom.

Sethe, the novel's protagonist, inhabits a world defined entirely in black and white. The racial dichotomy created by slavery, combined with traumatic associations of events caused by slavery, has rubbed all of the color out of her world. Sethe's inability to see color comes on gradually after she murders her own child in a desperate attempt to save the child from a life of slavery:

Every day she worked at fruit pies, potato dishes and vegetables while the cook did the soup, meat and all the rest. And she could not remember remembering a molly apple or a yellow squash. Every dawn she saw the dawn, but never acknowledged or remarked its color. There was something wrong with that. It was as though one day she saw red baby blood, another day the pink gravestone chips, and that was the last of it (47).

Sethe's obliviousness to color is...

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