Benjamin Marcher

This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

To answer questions about Beloved, please sign up.
Tiombe Jones I think the author also evidences some discomfort with occupying the space in Sethe's mind when she commits this act. The description of this scene is not typical throughout the book. It is graphic and TM really attempts to inhabit it, but it lacks the unquestioned understanding evident in other scenes. When she speaks of atrocities done to Sethe, she can speak as Sethe. But when she speaks of atrocities done by Sethe, she just is not able to inhabit that space but instead places the storytelling with the actor who she does see as violent. In other words, Sethe is only violent as a reflection of the violence of slavery and whiteness; she cannot tell Sethe's violence independent of that narrative because she doesn't imagine it independent of that narrative.
Zoe I read this book in my AP Lit class (it's awesome that you have a feminist literature class) and while we didn't go over this part specifically, I think that that was just a way to dehumanize Sethe. In Sethe's one track mind, the only thing that she knows is that she's saving her kids, however on the outside though--all everyone sees (whether they're black or white) is this mother, this mother made of iron, killing.

Him being white brings out the disgust in Sethe's actions and as readers we discern between Sethe's side of good intentions and then everyone elses side of disgust and amazement in how a person, OVERALL a mother!, could do this at all. Because he is white and he represents the side that doesn't really understand Sethe's internal thoughts and drive. that dehumanizes Sethe until she's "degraded" into just a crazy black lady.

Andrea The author does not have any discomfort about showing Sethe's view of this scene. She shows it from Sethe's perspective later on. It all unfolds like a weaving with multiple lose ends that get gradually woven together by the end.
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Melissa Archibald To add what others have already said, I also think it helps to underscore the ignorance of that group (white people, enslavers) and their inability to understand the psychological scars that slavery has left; to do otherwise would be admitting guilt for inflicting that trauma.

We as the reader have been with Sethe through much of this ordeal and we can understand WHY she is committing this "atrocity," but the schoolteacher, and any white person at this time, cannot fathom it. They don't see a mother protecting her child from a cycle of abuse and inhumanity; they see a crazy woman, hell an animal, which only reinforces their prejudices.
Rhonda Johnson I agree the message wouldn't have come across if Sethe had told the scene. Told from Sethe's POV, it would have just been a sick and grisly act which she couldn't have justified in her own words. The anger of the ghost child may indicate that TM wasn't actually trying to justify it.
John Hanson Most of the major characters have POV chapters. It's a unique shift I'm sure most readers find disjointed but cannot not explain.
Nita I accidentally read this spoiler review, which spoiled the book for me before I even started reading it. How sad.
Brooklyn Ann I think it's partly to explain WHY schoolteacher gave up so readily on his mission to re-enslave Sethe and her children. He even noticed that at least one of the boys wasn't dead and still didn't take the kid either. The other reason was to show just how dehumanized black people were to some whites.
Image for Beloved
Rate this book
Clear rating

About Goodreads Q&A

Ask and answer questions about books!

You can pose questions to the Goodreads community with Reader Q&A, or ask your favorite author a question with Ask the Author.

See Featured Authors Answering Questions

Learn more