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by Toni Morrison

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In Beloved, what is the significance of the antelope metaphor?

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The antelope metaphor in Toni Morrison’s Beloved appears in chapter 3 of the novel. In a story filled with rich and vivid imagery, this metaphor in particular is quite meaningful. Denver is recalling the story she loves to hear her mother tell about her birth. Sethe made her escape from Sweet Home in Kentucky, where she was abused by her slave master and his nephews, while she was late in her pregnancy. Sethe gave birth to Denver in the woods on her way to Ohio with the help of another escaped runaway, Amy, who had been a white indentured servant. Before giving birth, Sethe struggled to keep going,

But she could not, would not, stop, for when she did the little antelope rammed her with horns and pawed the ground of her womb with impatient hooves.

Sethe is Mother Earth in this image, and the unborn Denver is the antelope. Denver is struggling for freedom from Sethe’s womb, paralleling Sethe’s own struggle for freedom as she heads north. It is significant as well that the antelope is native...

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