By Toni Morrison And HealingThe theme of “healing” is ever present in the novel, Beloved by ToniMorrison. Many forms of “healing” take place, with many differentcharacters undergoing the “healing” process. These forms of”healing” range from healing personal conflicts from within, tohealing as a community, and by overcoming individual prejudices. I feel that theovercoming of individual prejudices is one of the most important aspects of thisnovel. Throughout the story, Sethe (the main character) has many encounters witha variety of people. These encounters leave a definite impression on her, whichis why I think that Sethe does the most “healing,” both from withinand by overcoming her own prejudices.
The meeting of Sethe and Amy Denver is thefocal point of Sethes “healing.” This takes place when Sethe (beingpregnant) is a slave on the run and goes into labor. She meets Amy Denver, anindentured servant who is leaving to Boston. At first, Amy doesnt seem thatshe wants to help Sethe because of her skin color, while Sethe isnt tootrusting of Amys white skin.
Sethe later states, “You dont know howtheyll jump. Say one thing do another”(Morrison 77). This kind ofdistrust is present in Sethe when she tells Amy that her name is “Lu.”The combination of Amys nonchalant attitude, and Sethes distrust displaysthe prejudices of society at the time. As Sethe and Amy converse, Sethe realizesthat Amy is unlike any other white person she has ever met. After Amy tellsSethe about her situation, and that she was also beaten by her”employer,” Sethe realizes that not all whites were the slave owners,but in fact some were indentured servants. Amy then begins to massage Sethesswollen feet, and says, “More it hurt, more better it is. Cant nothingheal without pain, you know” (Morrison 78). I think that at that pointSethe begins build trust towards trust Amy. Amy then goes and finds spiderwebsto heal Sethes bleeding back, which displays Amy showing a little compassionand trust towards Sethe. As Amy again massages Sethes feet, the reader beginsto feel like they are no longer just black and white, but actual people thathave feelings. I think that Morrison wants the reader to get this feeling thatpeople are people and not property. I feel Amy agrees with this, but at the sametime the prejudices in the society that she has grown up in makes her say thingslike, “She dont know nothing, just like you. You dont know athing” (Morrison 80). Another example of how prejudices are intertwinedwith society, is the constant use of Sethe calling Amy “miss”throughout the passage. This relays a sort of cultural boundary, the fact thatAmy can call Sethe by her first name but Sethe resorts to acting formallytowards her. The actual delivery of Sethes child is the climax to the”healing” of Sethes own prejudices. Amy helps Sethe deliver thebaby and with no hesitation, “Push!,” screamed Amy (Morrison 84). Amyno longer thinks of herself as being different from Sethe, which overcomes someof her own prejudices. At that point, Amy just sees Sethe as a person who needshelp and not a runaway slave that should be left alone. The line, “Apateroller passing would have sniggered to see two throw-away people, twolawless outlaws–a slave and a barefoot whitewoman with unpinned hair–wrappinga ten-minute-old baby in the rags they wore”(Morrison 84-85), betterillustrates the bonding that has taken place. The conclusion to this incidentwas the naming of Sethes child, which was aptly named, Denver. For Sethe toname her own daughter, (after killing her first because she didnt want her togrow up into slavery) after a whitewoman was a sign of “healing” thathad taken place during that night. Sethe would now have a different opinionabout white people, not to say that it would be that much different, but itdefinitely had changed it. In this novel Beloved, we see the “healing”that takes place within the individual. It is not a physical type of healing,but more of a psychological healing. This change, or healing may lookinsignificant, but to the individual (in this case Sethe) they have a newoutlook on things. They have overcome a certain barrier and now can function ina new way of thinking. From that point on Sethe doesnt see all white peopleas devils, nor does she trust all of them, but by having Amy Denver help deliverher baby and thus bonding, she knows that there are many different people withdifferent ways of behaving. I think that there are many other types of”healing” that occur in this novel, but I feel that if Sethe and Amycan overcome their own personal prejudices from a chance meeting, then thiswould be the most significant “healing” in this novel.
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