How are racism and the institution of slavery presented through the characters by the symbolism associated with Beloved in Toni Morrison's Beloved?

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Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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We ought also to consider the fact that Beloved says that she walked out of the water, and she describes the place where she was before she showed up on Bluestone Road as though it were a slave ship. She talks about people sleeping on top of her, being taken above decks to get fresh air or watch another dead body get dumped into the sea. She talks about the "men with no skin," presumably the white men, who would bring the slaves their "morning water"—likely their urine—to drink. Thus, it seems that Beloved symbolizes not only her own family's history and experiences with slavery but, in addition, the history of slavery in general. She seems to recall the Middle Passage, the slave ships that she never traveled in, and her walking out of the water—as well as Sethe's "endless voiding" of liquid when she first sees Beloved—seems to symbolize Beloved's rebirth.

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Beloved represents various ways of healing from the wounds of slavery and racism.  Sethe caters to Beloved, trying to...

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