The character of Beloved is a paradigm for an angry, painful sense of memory and suffering. She starts out as a vengeful, willful ghost who haunts Sethe, the woman who gave birth to and also killed her in the past. As soon as Sethe encounters Beloved, while she doesn’t seem to understand or react emotionally or psychologically to what is happening, her body has an immediate physical reaction in a “breaking of the waters,” which is symbolic of the re-birth of Beloved, and the beginning of the process of re-memory for Sethe. As a physical representation of Sethe’s confrontation with the past, Beloved represents the (individual and collective) heaviness, the burden of history: not only of the past and the memory of Sethe as an enslaved and persecuted black woman, but also the memory of blacks as a race, and the long history of oppression and discrimination they have suffered. The strength and power of the past upon the present memory of the black characters is also represented by the character of Beloved, who, as a combination of both a child and a woman, is both incredibly strong and incredibly fragile, (and inherently paradoxical), just like memory.
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