The Symbolism of the River in the Birth of Denver
During Sethe's run from slavery, the pregnant women finds herself giving birth to the child. Sethe is actually forced to give birth in an old rickety boat on the river standing between her and
her freedom. Due to the birth occurring on the river, Morrison effectively uses this object to reveal an image of life. "As soon as Sethe got close to the river her water broke loose to join it."(p 83). This event conveys the water of life joining with the water of the river. It is in this conjunction that water is so potently used to represent life. It is a sack of water that has kept Sethe's baby alive for nine months and it is the river water in which the baby is born onto. Water is the essence of life and it is responsible for holding onto a baby's life while in the mother's womb. The break of the sack is also responsible for signaling the baby into the world, thus giving the baby her new life. As the water flows from the mother's womb, the river flows; both bringing the ones who encounter it new life.
The river in this situation also represents the change from a life of slavery to one of freedom. Sethe is escaping from her life as a slave into a life that is her own. "Sethe was looking at one mile of dark water, . . . a current dedicated to the Mississippi hundreds of miles away. It looked like home to her..."(p 83). The crossing of the river represents the crossing over of Sethe's life. On one side of the river is slavery, the other side is the land of freedom. Upon traveling across the river, Sethe begins a new life. One where she is free to make her own decisions and to accomplish what she wants. The river allowed her to make a new life for herself and her child. The water contained in the river emancipated Sethe from a life no human being should live. "The water sucked and swallowed itself beneath them."(p 85). Here, Morrison gives the water its own persona. It is this...