A major theme apparent in Toni Morrison's Beloved is slavery. Slavery has a very strong impact upon each character's emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.
In Sethe's case slavery has twisted her mind to the point that where she takes her own child's life. Fearing that her infant daughter will grow up in a world surrounded by rape, manual labor, and abuse, Sethe decides to slit Beloved's throat. Slavery also causes Sethe, along with the other slaves, to feel subhuman. As Sethe walks in on one of schoolteacher's lessons, she realizes the topic is her "animal characteristics." Sethe is not seen as an equal by schoolteacher or the other slaveholders, which causes Sethe to feel estranged from society. She is portrayed by schoolteacher as a "lesser" human, not apt to function on his level of normalcy. This occurrence causes Sethe to further alienate herself and lose a sense of identity.
Slavery drives her to madness, as is seen with Beloved, which in effect causes Sethe to never want to revisit the past. When she is at 124, Sethe is constantly struggling to forget her past at Sweet Home. To her, the present is mostly a struggle to beat back the past, because the memories of her daughter's death and the experiences at Sweet Home are too painful for her to recall consciously.
Baby Suggs and Paul D are also victims to the harshness of slavery. When Baby Sugg's finds out she lost 8 children to slavery, she falls in to a deep depression. Her spirits are for ever scarred and the need for any color to "brighten" up her day is needed. Paul D is also affected mentally by slavery and in effect sadly decides to lock away his memories in the "tobacco tin" of his heart. He...