Beloved By Toni Morrison
In her novel Beloved, Toni Morrison writes about the life of former slaves of

Sweet Home. Sethe, one of the main characters, was once a slave to a man and his
wife, Mr. and Mrs. Garner. After Garnerís sudden death, schoolteacher comes to

Sweet Home and takes control of the slaves. His treatment of all the slaves
forced them to run away. Fearing that her children would be sold, Sethe sent her
two boys and her baby girl ahead to her mother-in-law. On the way to freedom, a
white girl named Amy Denver helped Sethe deliver her daughter, who she later
names Denver. About a month after Sethe escapes slavery, schoolteacher found her
and tried to bring her back. In fear that her children would be brought back
into slavery, Sethe killed her older daughter and attempted to kill Denver and
her boys. Sethe, along with Denver, was sent to prison and spent three months
there. Buglar and Howard, her two sons, eventually ran away. After about
eighteen years, another ex-slave from Sweet Home, Paul D., came to live with

Sethe and Denver. A few days later, while coming home from a carnival, Sethe,

Paul D., and Denver found a young woman of about twenty on their porch. She
claimed her name is Beloved. They took her in and she lived with them.

Throughout the novel, Morrison uses many symbols and imagery to express her
thoughts and to help us better understand the characters. Morrison uses the
motif of water throughout the novel to represent birth, re-birth, and escape to
freedom. In Beloved, one of the things that water represents is birth. When

Sethe was running away form Sweet Home, she was pregnant. In order to get to
freedom, she had to cross the Ohio River. On the way to the river, Sethe met a
young white girl named Amy Denver. Amy helped Sethe to keep going because her
feet were swollen up. When Sethe and Amy got to the river, Sethe thought the
baby had died during the previous night. However, she soon felt the signs of
labor. "It looked like home to her, and the baby (not dead in the least) must
have thought so too. As soon as Sethe got close to the river her own water broke
loose to join it. The break, followed by the redundant announcement of labor,
arched her back" (p. 83). Sethe crawled into a boat that soon began to fill
with water. It was in this boat that Sethe gave birth to Denver. "When a foot
rose from the riverbed and kicked the bottom of the boat and Setheís behind,
she knew it was done and permitted herself a short faint" (p. 84). In these
two passages, water signifies birth. Denver was thought to be dead until Sethe
reached the river, a large body of water. Also, Denver is actually born in the
water because the boat that Sethe was in was filled up with water. When Beloved
first appears at Setheís house, Sethe leans in to look at the womanís face.

As she does so, she suddenly feels a great need to relive herself. "She never
made the outhouse. Right in front of its door she had to lift her skirts, and
the water she voided was endless. Like a horse, she thought, but as it went on
and on she thought, No, more like flooding the boat when Denver was born"
(p.50). When Sethe looked at Belovedís face, her bladder filled up. When she
was relieving herself, the amount of urine reminded her of flooding the boat
when her water broke at the time Denver was born. Denverís birth is associated
many times with water. Throughout her novel, Toni Morrison also uses the motif
of water to signify re-birth. When we first meet Beloved, Morrison writes, "A
fully dressed woman walked out of the water" (p. 50). In this passage,

Beloved, the daughter that Sethe murdered 18 years ago, comes back to the world
of the living. She comes straight out of the water. Here, water signifies the
re-birth of Beloved. When Beloved is taken into the house, the only thing she
asks for is water. Ď"She said she thirsty,í said Paul D. He took off his
cap. ĎMighty thirsty look likeí" (p. 51). "The woman gulped water from a
speckled tin cup and held it out for more. Four times Denver filled it, and four
times the woman drank as though she had crossed a desert" (p. 51). Water is an
essential part of life. It is necessary