The Color Red in Morrison's Beloved

Toni Morrison uses the color red in multiple ways in her novel Beloved. On one hand red is a symbol of vibrancy and life, often revealing life in unexpected places. It also symbolizes pain and death, though death does not signify absence in a book where the dead have a very lively presence in human lives. Beautiful but terrible, red is desired and feared by the characters and often signifies important turning points in the book.

Several of Beloved’s characters express desire for red, showing it as a positive symbol of birth, life, and emotion. Denver, who has not left 124 for twelve years, longs for color and vibrancy. To Denver, Beloved’s arrival signifies the return of the vibrancy that she has missed most: that of a companion. Beloved’s worth to Denver is made clear through Denver’s love of colors, and red in particular, for Denver is willing to give up “the most violent of sunsets…and all the blood of autumn and settle for the palest yellow if it comes from her Beloved” (143). Beloved, also, is captivated by the color red. Though she has experienced more than enough vibrancy in her own life, her eyes follow the “blood spot” of a cardinal in the leaves of a nearby tree, “hungry for another glimpse” (119). To Beloved, red...

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