Symbols of trauma: A mythological view on Toni Morrison's Beloved Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/3197xn62n

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  • The purpose of this paper is to engage in a mythological discussion which enriches current scholarship regarding the title character of Toni Morrison’s Beloved. While major scholars suggest that Beloved as a character is either a solid ghost or—as Zora Neale Hurston suggests based on the quote “people who die bad don’t stay in the ground”—a reincarnation of Sethe’s infant who bore the same name, this paper seeks to complicate such notions, as neither of these theories account for Beloved’s dependence on and fascination with the river from which she arose nor for her fish-like qualities (Morrison 187). Additionally, neither of these explanations give a compelling reason for the timing of Beloved’s transformation between the two-year-old poltergeist Beloved and the solid, adult Beloved. In this paper, the significance of this transition within a mythological perspective, in which neither of Beloved’s various forms are human but rather cultural symbols, will be explained in detail in order to show how the forms in which Beloved appears reflect her mother Sethe’s struggle to cope with the slavery of her past. The argument here is significant because it powerfully argues for the persistence of historical trauma of slavery for African Americans, even, and perhaps especially, today.
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