Toni Morrison's novel, Beloved, reveals the effects of human emotion and its
power to cast an individual into a struggle against him or herself. In the beginning of the novel, Sethe is seen as a woman who is resigned to her desolate life and isolates herself from all those around her. Yet, she was once a woman full of feeling: she had loved her husband Halle, loved her four young children, and loved the days of the Clearing. And thus, Sethe was jaded when she began her life at 124 Bluestone Road-- she had loved too much.
After failing to 'save' her children from the schoolteacher, Sethe suffered forever with guilt and regret. Guilt for having killed her "crawling already?" baby daughter, and then regret for not having succeeded in her task. It later becomes apparent that Sethe's tragic past was the reason why she lived a life of isolation.
Beloved, who shares with Sethe that one fatal moment of murder, so to speak, reacts to it in a completely different way; because of her obsessive and vengeful love, she haunts Sethe's house and fights the forces of death, only to come back in an attempt to take her mother's life.
Through her usage of symbolism, Morrison exposes the internal conflicts that impede her characters. By contrasting those individuals, she shows tragedy in the human condition. Both Sethe and Beloved suffer the devastating emotional effects of that one fateful event: while the guilty mother who lived refuses to passionately love again, the daughter who was betrayed fights heaven and hell- in the name of love- just to live again. Sethe was a woman who knew how to love, and ultimately fell to ruin because of her "too-thick love" (p. 164). Within Sethe was the power of unconditional...