Helen Morrison Gender Analysis

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Morrison`s representation of Sethe as a strong, ex-slave woman does not conform to the universal depiction of a feminine and fragile woman’s character. Conversely, in the novel, the reader observes that gender roles overlap. It is noticeable at the very beginning of the story in which it is told that the house is “[F]ull of baby’s
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venom” (Beloved, 1988: 3). Because of fear, two male characters, Howard and Burglar, could not stay in the haunted house and they decide to leave it. They are not strong enough to “cope with a baby`s ghost spirit” (Rindchen, 2002: 5). Contrary to them, the female characters decide to stay in the house. The protagonist is described as a strong and powerful character who is not frightened by the baby’s ghost but
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Marianne Hirsch writes that in a patriarchal family model, women are associated with values and traditions (1994: 93). Yet, this ideology does not apply to motherhood presented in the novel because slave mothers “own neither themselves nor their children” (Hirsch, 1994: 96). Another researcher, Carole Boyce Davies, considers motherhood and mothering in the novel as the “central and defining tropes in Black female reconstruction” (in Rindchen, 2002: 7). As a mother, Sethe can be perceived both as a feminine and masculine featured character. The protagonist decides to kill her own baby because she does not want her to go through the atrocities of slavery. She knows what may happen to her. Only by killing her daughter is she able to protect her. She says in the novel “if I hadn`t killed her, she would have died and that is something I could not bear to happen her” (Beloved, 1988: 200). In the novel, Sethe admits that her daughter died as “soft as cream. Being alive was the hard part” (Beloved, 1988: 120). Katrin Rindchen states that “Sethe`s murdering out of love is still a male action with a female origin” (2002: 8). Some researchers believe that her masculine features cause that she is overprotective as a mother (Mori,…show more content…
As slaves, women were supposed to give birth to as many children as possible because in the future their children would work as slaves and would become cheap labor. Women were aware of these procedures and, that is why, they were reluctant to have more children. What is more, they did not know how to prepare a child for the injustice based solely on their skin color. That is why, some researchers state that a black woman`s motherhood was profoundly shattered and “needless to say, her power as matriarch is drastically limited by the bonds of racism, sexism, and poverty” (Rich, 1976: 204). In juxtaposition with this view, Barbara Hill Rigney argues that Sethe’s role as a mother is diminished because of slavery “the Great Mother, the giver of both life and wisdom, who is nommo, the creative potential and the sacred aspect of nature itself. But only in freedom can Sethe celebrate her love for her children, her sense of herself as Great Mother”
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