The theme of «healing» is ever present in the novel «Beloved» by Toni Morrison. Many forms of «healing» take place, with many different characters undergoing the «healing» process. These forms of «healing» range from healing personal conflicts from within, to healing as a community, and by overcoming individual prejudices. I feel that the overcoming of individual prejudices is one of the most important aspects of this novel. Throughout the story, Sethe (the main character) has many encounters with a variety of people. These encounters leave a definite impression on her, which is why I think that Sethe does the most “healing,” both from within and by overcoming her own prejudices.
The meeting of Sethe and Amy Denver is the focal point of Sethe’s “healing.” This takes place when Sethe (being pregnant) is a slave on the run and goes into labor. She meets Amy Denver, an indentured servant who is leaving to Boston. At first, Amy doesn’t seem that she wants to help Sethe because of her skin color, while Sethe isn’t too trusting of Amy’s white skin. Sethe later states, “You don’t know how they’ll jump. Say one thing, do another”(Morrison 77). This kind of distrust is present in Sethe when she tells Amy that her name is “Lu.” The combination of Amy’s nonchalant attitude and Sethe’s distrust displays the prejudices of society at the time. As Sethe and Amy converse, Sethe realizes that Amy is unlike any other white person she has ever met. After Amy tells Sethe about her situation, and that she was also beaten by her “employer,” Sethe realizes that not all whites were the slave owners, but in fact some were indentured servants. Amy then begins to massage Sethe’s swollen feet, and says, “More it hurt, more better it is. Can’t nothing heal without pain, you know” (Morrison 78). I think that at that point Sethe begins build trust towards trust Amy. Amy then goes and finds spiderwebs to heal Sethe’s bleeding back, which displays Amy showing a little compassion and trust towards Sethe. As Amy again massages Sethe’s feet, the reader begins to feel like they are no longer just black and white, but actual people that have feelings. I think that Morrison wants the reader to get this feeling that people are people and not property. I feel Amy agrees with this, but at the same time the prejudices in the society that she has grown up in makes her say things like, “She don’t know nothing, just like you. You don’t know a thing” (Morrison 80). Another example of how prejudices are intertwined with society is the constant use of Sethe calling Amy «miss» throughout the passage. This relays a sort of cultural boundary, the fact that Amy can call Sethe by her first name but Sethe resorts to acting formally towards her. The actual delivery of Sethe’s child is the climax to the «healing» of Sethe’s own prejudices. Amy helps Sethe deliver the baby and with no hesitation, “Push!,” screamed Amy (Morrison 84). Amy no longer thinks of herself as being different from Sethe, which overcomes some of her own prejudices. At that point, Amy just sees Sethe as a person who needs help and not a runaway slave that should be left alone. The line, “A pateroller passing would have sniggered to see two throw-away people, two lawless outlaws—a slave and a barefoot whitewoman with unpinned hair—wrapping a ten-minute-old baby in the rags they wore”(Morrison 84-85), better illustrates the bonding that has taken place. The conclusion to this incident was the naming of Sethe’s child, who was aptly named, Denver. For Sethe to name her own daughter, (after killing her first because she didn’t want her to grow up into slavery) after a whitewoman was a sign of «healing» that had taken place during that night. Sethe would now have a different opinion about white people, not to say that it would be that much different, but it definitely had changed it. In this novel Beloved, we see the «healing» that takes place within the individual. It is not a physical type of healing, but more of a psychological healing. This change or healing may look insignificant, but to the individual (in this case Sethe) they have a new outlook on things. They have overcome a certain barrier and now can function in a new way of thinking. From that point on Sethe doesn’t see all white people as devils, nor does she trust all of them, but by having Amy Denver help deliver her baby and thus bonding, she knows that there are many different people with different ways of behaving. I think that there are many other types of «healing» that occur in this novel, but I feel that if Sethe and Amy can overcome their own personal prejudices from a chance meeting, then this would be the most significant «healing» in this novel.
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