In Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved the appearance of the character Beloved unconsciously forces Sethe, Paul D., and Denver to face their fears and move beyond the issues from their pasts that kept their hearts and minds enslaved long after their physical enslavement had ended.
Sethe and Denver lived at 124 Bluestone Road alone. They stayed hidden away from the rest of the community for many years. Aside from the necessity of Sethe going out to work six days of the week, the two women remained within the gates of 124 all the time. This was exactly the way that Sethe wanted it. “To Sethe, the future was a matter of keeping the past at bay” (42), So long as there was nothing around to remind of her past, Sethe felt she was safe. All of that changed when Beloved showed up at 124. At first Sethe was unaware that the strange woman who appeared out of nowhere was Beloved, the daughter that she killed so many years ago in an effort to keep her out of slavery. Her practice of “beating back the past” (73) had kept her from seeing Beloved for who she really was, even when Beloved questioned her on things a stranger couldn’t possibly know, like “where your diamonds?” (58). Beloved persisted with her questions and Sethe, surprising herself, proceeded to answer them. The novel states that:
“Sethe learned the profound satisfaction Beloved got from storytelling. It amazed Sethe (as much as it pleased Beloved) because every mention of her past life hurt. Everything in it was painful or lost. She and baby Suggs had agreed without saying so that it was unspeakable… But, as she began telling about the earrings, she found herself wanting to, liking it.” (58).
Beloved was able to get Sethe to talk about things that she had struggled forget. Sethe’s need to avoid anything that might trigger “re-memories” started to diminish. When Sethe finally realized who Beloved was, all of the memories of her past came back like a wave. Initially this wave of consciousness was benign....