The Significance of Memory in “Beloved”

“She had good hands, she said. The whitegirl, she said, had thin little
arms but good hands. She saw that right away, she said. Hair enough for five
heads and good hands, she said. I guess the hands made her think she could do
it: get us both across the river. But the mouth was what kept her from being
scared. She said there ain’t nothing to go by with whitepeople. You don’t know
how they’ll jump. Say one thing, do another. But if you looked at the mouth
sometimes you could tell by that. She said this girl talked a storm, but there
wasn’t no meanness around her mouth. She took Ma’am to that lean-to and rubbed
her feet for her, so that was one thing.
And Ma’am believed she wasn’t going to turn her over. You could get money
if you turned a runaway over, and she wasn’t sure this girl Amy didn’t need
money more than anything, especially since all she talked about was getting
hold of some velvet.” (Morrison, 77)

In this passage of “Beloved” by Toni Morrison, we read about a memory of Sethe’s past when she was running away, six months pregnant with her daughter Denver, and she encounters a little white girl in the hills, who helps her along her path, and also helps her deliver her baby. Taking into consideration the time period in which the novel is written, during the years of slavery-and afterwards- we get a sense of what kind of character the little white girl Amy is. It says here that during that time period, anyone who turned in a runaway slave could get money for it, but Sethe did not believe that Amy was going to turn her in. Even though the little girl was of white lineage, she had knowledge of what a negroe slave was, and knew that someone was looking for her, she still did not turn her in or made the effort to belittle the African women that she found in the hills, badly hurt and pregnant. Instead, she took the time to make her as comfortable as she possibly could, and cured her of her illnesses.
“She said the girl talked like a storm, but there wasn’t no meanness around her mouth,” were the words of Sethe. From this quote I got the understanding that Amy, although having knowledge of what slaves where, was still a bond person and had the courage to help another in need. If it may have been another white person that would have found Sethe in the hills, they most likely would have turned her in to receive a monetary reward for it.
From this passage specifically, although we don’t receive much information about what live as a slave was, we can interpret from “Beloved” that it was not an easy task for the slaves to run away. There were many hardships that made running away very difficult. We can also interpret that there were still people with kind hearts like Amy, which without receiving nothing in return, still helped a black woman in need. This, like many other memories of her past, was one that Sethe didn’t like to recall because it reminded her of the troubles that she went through as a slave. Throughout what we have read so far in “Beloved,” the reader gets a pretty good insight of Sethe’s memories, that help piece together parts of the story that are scattered around.



3 thoughts on “The Significance of Memory in “Beloved”

  1. I found this particular scene in “Beloved” very interesting because during this time period it was very rare to find a white person who would be willing to help a slave on the run. Sethe could’ve easily been turned in by this white girl for money or even killed, but this white girl took the time to help her out and even took her across the river. This shows how there are always some good people left in the world who are always kind hearted and do not give-in to what is socially accepted at the time even though it is wrong.

  2. Amy, the white girl, was under previlage girl in that area. She could understand the life of slaves because she worked under one of the owners with little more priority than black people. But she had also faced the harship in her life. Amy describe the whipped mark of Sethe. Now when Paul D met Sethe, she jokes that ” Could have cherries too now for all i know.”
    Memories were really inspiring becasue when Sethe was struggling during giving birth. A white girl helped her deliver the baby. One of the most painful memory in women’s life is while giving birth to a child.
    Scientifically, it has proven that the pain is unbearable. It is like an elephant crushing you backbone.

  3. this is a good passage and i agree with the interpretation of it. Amy being a young white girl had the sense in mind to put the needs of another ahead of the law, ignoring the possible after math that could really hurt her. She kept Sethe as her main priority in helping her heal from her illness and help deliver her baby as well. as for the memory goes I believe that even though Sethe thinks of this time as a bad memory in her life due to the actions lived prior to that, I believe she should think of this memory in her life as a silver lining and a stepping stone to all that happened later in her life. If it wasn’t for Amy helping Sethe to give birth to the baby, the life of Sethe may have had a different outcome, also that Amy never ratted her out. Amy and Sethe in a way understood each other and shared similar life experiences without knowing, Amy herself worked under the owners, and faced horrible life experiences in doing so.

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