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Toni Morrison’s Beloved introduces many characters who exhibit clear signs of trauma due to their past as African American slaves, however, one character in particular stands out: Sethe. Sethe’s life as a slave led her to experience and do horrendous things. The worst being the difficult and violent decision to murder her own child, Beloved, in an effort to prevent her child from being forced into slavery. Though Sethe survived her life as a slave, she was unable to focus on her future because of her past that consistently haunts her. Her trauma is portrayed in many different forms throughout the novel: trees, scars, time, and the ghost of Beloved herself. These symbols of trauma provide the reader with a glimpse of how trauma, specifically trauma created from the United States' dark history in slavery, influences Sethe from moving on, and continues to manipulate her throughout the novel. I will be analyzing these portrayals of trauma and how they affect Sethe’s character throughout the novel.

Publication Date



Logan, UT


trauma, slavery, symbolism, character development


Education | English Language and Literature

Beloved: Born of Sethe's Slavery and Trauma