Symbolism of Trees in Beloved

Toni Morrison uses tree imagery throughout her novel “Beloved”. For most of the characters in the novel, trees bring both good and bad recollections of their lives. Trees symbolize the energy from which the characters gain comfort and freedom, yet they also convey the past traumatic memories of the characters. Morrison frequently uses trees as a link it to her ultimate message: the characters’ intractable struggle to cope with their past although they are now free from slavery.

Morrison describes the beauty of trees, which ironically reminds the characters of their loss and traumas. In the early beginning of the novel, Sethe recalls the sights of lynching at the trees: “Boys hanging from the most beautiful sycamores in the world” (7). By juxtaposing the beauty and her bitter memory, Morrison shows how Sethe, as a former slave, feels denied of the opportunity to fully enjoy the natural scene. To strengthen this idea, Morrison shows the irony again in “Sweet Home had more pretty trees than any farm around” (25). Despite the pleasant and peaceful landscape of the plantation, Sethe, Paul D and other characters endure a very difficult life at Sweet Home.

Using the “chokecherry tree” symbol for the scars on Sethe’s back, Morrison...

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