In truth, Beloved is a child who, at the tender age of two, is murdered by her very own mother. Returning to this mother is a choice she makes because she may have wanted revenge – but this strong feeling of hate is not evil in its nature, for what is revenge but a transformation of another strong feeling, which is love, once it is unreciprocated and violated? Beloved may represent Sethe’s past which Sethe had to resolve herself, but Beloved in herself is not just an instrument to this transformation but one who has her own story to tell.
Beloved at one time may get one thinking about how ‘evil’ she is, for being one who takes selfish revenge on her own mother, but soon, one realizes that her actions are justifiable and deserving of a second look and understanding. As her name suggests, she is a child who only wants to be loved. Does the blame fall on Sethe, Beloved’s mother and murderer, then? Is Sethe responsible for how Beloved treats her? After all, she had sawed the poor girl’s throat when she was just beginning to crawl.
Now, why would a mother do such a thing to her child? It was when the slave hunters had come for her and her family that Sethe kills her young child. Well aware of what kind of life that would be for them, especially for her child, she chooses to end her daughter’s life than give her up and leave her life in the mercy of these salve hunters. This is an unusual act because it challenges every other popular concept of good, which would be following authorities, being an affectionate and caring mother, and of preserving life above everything else.
But given the context of the action, justifications of Sethe’s actions quickly follow: what kind of authority is in question here? And what kind of life waits anyway? Sethe loves her children so much, so strongly, that the actions these bear are equally strong, and not easily understood. She has a “too-thick love” for her children which are her “best things,” and she “wouldn’t draw breath without [her] children” (Morrison, pp. 163, 203). She would never give her daughter up to people who would give her a worst life.
Aside from experiencing the physical harshness of slavery, Sethe has her own experiences of living without a mother as she herself had seen her mother only two or three times all her life – and she doesn’t want Beloved living this way (Morrison, p. 60). Sethe has her reasons for doing what she does, and at that very moment, what she did was the best option for her. And when Beloved reappears eighteen years later at the doorstep of Sethe’s house at 124, she involuntarily urinates – something which does not happen to her even when she was a child (Morrison, p. 51).
She is surprised, frightened, anxious, guilty, and maybe even happy so much she couldn’t control herself as to urinate – she may have not known it consciously, yet somehow, her system picked up the fact that it was her child who returned. Given another kind of life, where she and her family are not a clear target of slavery, keeping her child alive wouldn’t be so hard to do at all. But she is poor and that spells all the difference.
Being poor, far from the sentiments of the upper and the middle classes, does not happen by choice or is a product of a person’s sheer laziness. This is one of the common misconceptions because poverty occurs from the lack opportunities and tools for success, not because the individual is a failure. The world’s current production of food and resources is actually enough to feed the whole planet and to make everyone live comfortably. The problem is that these wealth are concentrated among the powerful few.