“Anything dead coming back to life hurts.”

Through part one Beloved motivates Sethe to tell stories of the ordeals she faced in her past.  All of the memories hold a certain tension when they were brought to the surface.  Reawakening the past is a reoccurring pattern that we’ve come to anticipate as it brings a new element to the story.  Instead of the novel reading in a progressive manner, we are giving blots of images from the characters’ past, however it is our goal to piece them together, similar to the film Memento.

In chapter three, Amy told Sethe “Anything dead coming back to life hurts”, this has been the emphasis of the first part of the story.  From the start of the novel, Paul D was the most reluctant to bring up the memories they all shared, he saw it as a dark cloud looming over them but later changed his perspective.  The characters realized that by recalling their past they are able to deal with the burden, as they say getting the “weight” of their shoulders.  Paul D’s personality depicts him as a typical “man” from the old days; courageous, strong, and willful.   However, when he was punished by the bit that was placed into his mouth, he felt his identity diminish.  He felt like a lesser man, which is one of the reasons why he was so reluctant to speak of his their past.  The slaves often used songs to tell their stories, with Paul D being no exception.  Another reason for the hesitance in the characters speaking up their past was the  control their slave masters had over their speech.  This was evident when Sethe was whipped after reporting her milk stolen.

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.