Saved by a Scar
The scar on Sethe’s back, originally a physical symbol of her enslavement, was transformed into a symbol of beauty, a necessary distortion for Sethe’s own transformation from an enslaved woman into a woman in possession of her own body.
During Sethe’s life as a slave, she was not only used for chores and common slave work, but also for her body. Being a black slave woman, she had no rights to own anything. Not property, not her life, nor even her own body. The scar was given to her after she was whipped severely for telling Mrs. Garner that she had been raped. Anything that happened that was all right with the slave master, she had no power against. She lived for the sole purpose of serving someone else, which is why when she was freed by her escape, she needed a reason to believe she could serve herself.
The scar on her back could have made it impossible for Sethe to move on with it being a constant reminder of her life as a slave. However through a brief yet important friendship with Amy Denver, she is shone how a mark of her past could make her stronger in her future. Sethe never sees the scar herself so to have another person, a white person, describe something about her as beautiful, serves as a huge foundation for her to build a strong confident role for herself in her own life.
“It’s a tree, Lu. A chokecherry tree. See, here’s the trunk – parting for the branches. You got a might lot of branches. Leavs too, look like, and dern if these ain’t blossoms. Tiny little cherry blossoms, just as white. Your back got a whole tree on it. In bloom.” (Pg. 93)
The specific diction of the description of the horrific scar on her back is very significant. A tree in itself symbolizes strength, growth, and beauty, characteristics that have never before been used to describe Sethe. Amy describes the tree as in bloom, much like Sethe, who is in the beginning of a new life, one where she is free to bloom and grow as she wishes....