Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved presents characters that have been affected by the traumas of slavery devastating them emotionally. Slavery had physical, emotional, and psychological effects on the lives of the characters and this influenced their adjusting to live a free life. The characters experienced brutality, violence in addition to being treated as animals and as a result, as they struggle to live a normal life, they become delusional and act irrationally.
The most affected character by slavery was Sethe. According to the narrator, Sethe was whipped, raped, tortured, and mistreated as a slave, and as she tries to run away, the traumas of slavery drive her to kill her two-year-old baby beloved. Sethe could not stand her children living as slaves like her, so when the schoolteacher came to bring her back to Sweet Home, she became delusional and wanted to kill all her children but ended up killing one. Therefore, her madness is revealed when she cannot bear the evils of slavery and attempts to murder her children. Sethe’s madness was as a result of the traumatic events she had to undergo as a slave woman, and this affected her mental ability to think and act rationally.
Apart from Sethe, Denver also loses it when she remembers about beloved. This is evident when she thinks of how her mother “used to cut off her head every night and carried it downstairs to braid her hair” when she was a child. This is total madness because she had lost her sense of self when she imagined that she is beloved.
Another delusional character in Beloved is Paul D. He is alienated from himself until he cannot recognize his screams because he thinks that it is someone else screaming. Paul’s madness is as a result of the horror he had to go through as a slave because the wounds of slavery did not disappear in his life even after he was free.
The madness portrayed by the characters in Beloved adds significance to the overall story as a whole because it shows how the slaves were mentally and emotionally affected by the brutalities of slavery. It emphasizes on the traumatic events that the characters had to go through as slaves. The characters the exhibit madness when they are unable to cope with the traumas in their lives.
Beloved is a book that depicts how slavery physically and psychologically affects the lives of people and even deprives them of their sanity. Morrison presents characters that lost their sanity due to the effects of slavery on their lives. The characters are tormented by their memories, and this has an adverse impact on their sense of self. Sethe attempts to murder her children because of the abuse and torture she suffered under the schoolteacher. Paul D alienates himself from the real person he is because of the same psychological effects of slavery, and lastly, Denver thinks that she is Beloved and this affects her life. The characters’ irrational behavior in Beloved plays a vital role in the plot of the story because the readers become aware of how slavery can strip people of not only their freedom but their sanity too. They faced the evils of slavery, and after they were free, they could not live a normal life. This is evident when Sethe says, “freeing yourself is one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another” (Morrison 95). They were free, but the horrors of slavery remained in their minds robbing them of their sanity.
Morrison, Toni. Beloved. New York: Vintage International, 2004. Print