Beloved by Toni Morrison is a novel about Sethe’s life and how her past comes back to haunt her in many ways. Sethe as a person has endured many forms of suffering during her slave years. Throughout the story, we see many scenes that contribute highly to the storyline itself. These scenes may even bring up a symbol that will be brought up to the end of the story. Going back to Sethe’s suffering, we see one form of suffering that really carried on throughout the story. That suffering is the moment her milk was stolen from her. Milk played a huge symbol in this story and without the scenes that bring up this major symbol, this story would probably be completely different.
The scene I’d like to bring up is a scene that happened in the beginning of the book. On Chapter 1 Page 19 (Red Book), we see a scene that depicts Sethe’s suffering regarding her milk. In this scene, we hear what happened to Sethe after running away. “After I left you, those boys came in there and took my milk. That’s what they came here for. Held me down and took it. I told Mrs. Garner on em. She had that lump and couldn’t speak but her eyes rolled out tears.” To simplify this, Sethe was beaten down and her breast milk was forced from her. This quote is very important because it starts off the whole milk topic in the story. After reading this part, we also see that Sethe was treated poorly and inhumane. In other words, she was treated as a cow and not as a human being. This scene is important and without it, the story would be different. For starters, we wouldn’t take milk into account when reading this story. It would just be something that happened and not something major. This scene also brings up the topic of her suffering and how that suffering scarred her. Lastly, as I mentioned before, this scene was a starter that brought about a chain reaction throughout the rest of the story.
Moving on, we go further into the story. The time milk was taken from Sethe by the nephew of school teacher still lingered in the mind of Sethe. It was very traumatizing for her which now brings up a scene in Chapter 7 Page 83 (Red Book) of the story. “There is also my husband squatting by the chum smearing the butter as well as its clabber all over his face because the milk they took is on his mind. And as far as he is concerned, the world may as well know it. and if he was broken then, then he is also and certainly dead now.” In other words, the incident where milk was taken from Sethe was very traumatizing to not only her but to her husband Halle as well. It was something that both of them couldn’t even take off their minds. It wouldn’t be surprising if many people knew about this incident. This incident hit Halle really hard and he became a Halle we didn’t really know. The single thought of milk drove Halle insane. Unfortunately, Halle was never seen again after the butter incident which of course would hit Sethe, his wife at the time, pretty hard. After reading this, we can already assume that Halle is dead. The thought of being a widow is something that she couldn’t really take. This stuck to her even after leaving Sweet Home. This scene is one of those pivotal scenes because without Halle’s disappearance, Sethe wouldn’t have had a broken heart. She wouldn’t have also recalled this scene many times after thinking about Halle. This scene also enabled Sethe to grow in a way. If it wasn’t for Halle’s disappearance, Sethe wouldn’t have moved on to start rebuilding her family from scratch with Paul D. Going back to the original milk robbing scene, if that scene hadn’t happened, the scene discussed on this paragraph would have not happened which essentially is a novel changing scene.
Later on in the story, we see a Sethe that is more caring towards everyone especially Beloved and Denver. She loved her children which is her duty as a mother. She wanted to give whatever she had to her baby however, we saw earlier in the book that her milk was taken from her which scarred her. This however didn’t stop her from wanting to provide love for her loved ones. This brings up our next quote which can be found on Chapter 8 Page 118 (Red Book). “There was no question but that she could do it. Just like the day she arrived at 124-sure enough, she had milk enough for all.” To restate this, there was without a doubt that she could provide for her children especially due to the fact that she had enough milk for all her children. As I mentioned before, Sethe wanted to provide for her children. Regardless of what happened and what could happen, she wanted to give no matter what. Based on this, we can probably see a development in an obsession towards this one goal. Now what exactly does this have to do with the scene we read on Page 19 (Red Book)? The answer to that is we can see that she shows signs of growth and development since the day her milk was taken from her. She prepared herself to give up everything just to provide her children with her nutrients. In addition to that, Sethe was now able to do something she couldn’t do back then as a slave and that was to feed her children with her breast milk.
In conclusion, that one scene from Page 19 (Red Book) played a very important role in the story. It enabled Sethe character to grow as a woman and not as the cow she was depicted as during her years as a slave. This scene resulted in crucial events, the most important being the Halle incident because it resulted in the major move into 124 with Paul D to rebuild the family she lost as a slave.