Essay On The Color Red In Toni Morrison's Beloved

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In Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved, Sethe, Denver, and Paul D each attempt to cope with their horrific pasts amidst a world haunted by the horrors of slavery. Paradoxically, these memories of despair often accompany intense feelings of motherly love, desire, and hope. Throughout the novel, the color red symbolizes this dichotomy through representing both the past memories of violence, hatred, and death associated with slavery along with the feelings of love, desire, and hope for a better future.
After horrific oppression and brutality at Sweet Home plantation and the prison at Alfred, Georgia, Paul D carries a “tobacco tin lodged in his chest” concealing his memories and emotions from his slave life (Morrison 133). Despite Paul D’s fervent attempts to escape his past and conceal the feelings that come with it, he experiences brief pulses of emotion which are represented through the color red. For example, when Paul D arrives at house 124 and sees Sethe for the first time since leaving Sweet Home, the narrator describes how there is a “pool of pulsing red light” just beyond the doorstep (Morrison 11). The red light symbolizes Paul D’s burning desire to be with Sethe, an emotion he has not experienced since his days at Sweet Home. Morrison’s word choice of
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Love is paired with violence, hope with despair, and desire with fear and angst. Morrison uses the color red to capture the vividness of these emotions and showcase the polarizing effects slavery has on one’s state of mind. Yet, there is a common theme throughout the novel that as terrible as these emotions might seem, embracing the past is a necessary step to move on to the future. So only when Sethe and Paul D embrace the color red – and recognize that their past is part of their identity – can they fully begin a new life at 124 and have hope for a better
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