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Essay on Toni Morrison's Beloved - Symbol and Symbolism in Beloved

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Symbolism in Beloved  


 In the novel Beloved, the author, Toni Morrison, attempts to promote a variety of different themes and ideas by symbolizing them in minor events and situations.  This symbolism is evident throughout the entire novel and is very crucial to the understanding and analyzing of the text.  A good example of this is the ice skating scene.  Morrison uses this scene to represent the slow, but consistent, deterioration of the family living in 124 and to foreshadow the ultimate demise of the family unit.  Morrison writes repeatedly, “Nobody saw them falling,” yet in all reality they were falling, and falling fast (Morrison 174).  There are a number of details, including the setting, Sethe’s emotions, the choice of shoes/ice skates worn by each of the three female characters, and the ultimate goal of reaching heaven, which demonstrate this idea.

 The ice skating scene takes place on a frozen stream, not too far from 124.  The ice is apparently solid, therefore providing a somewhat firm surface on which to skate.  Unfortunately, the ice is slippery.  This is symbolic of the three females in the story.  They all have a strong base, a sincere love for each other, yet no matter how hard they attempt to stay upright and proud, they always end up slipping and falling on the ice.  The frozen stream represents the future of the family.  The ice will slowly, but consistently, melt as the weather gets warmer, as time passes by.  As the ice melts, so does the firm base that supports the skaters and the family members will have no where to stand.

 As the story unfolds, it becomes increasingly evident that Sethe is emotionally unstable.  Beginning with her life at Sweet Home, dealing with the everyday trials of sla...


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... of loneliness and solitude.  By isolating Beloved and herself from the rest of the world, Sethe attempted to hide from the ugliness that existed outside of 124.  “They were lulled into a false confidence because they had each other,” neglecting even the bare necessities of life  (Finkbeiner 1999). Sethe and Beloved each had a pair of footwear, with Beloved having two skates and Sethe having two shoes. Denver’s condition was a more difficult one.  She was forced to skate on a single skate, which was very unstable.  In order to stay upright she was forced to seek help from the community, reach out to the people outside of 124.  Through this act she was able to bring healing to the family.  By reaching out to the community, she was able to combat the horrors of loneliness and racism.
 
Works Cited:

Morrison, Toni. Beloved. New York, Penguin Books USA Inc, 1988.


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