What is the significance of pregnant Beloved's disappearance as Sethe is enveloped by the praying women in Beloved?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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What a great question!  Ironically, there isn't a clear answer that doesn't involve opinion.  However, with that being said, I will be happy to share my own opinion on the subject!  The significance of pregnant Beloved's disappearance is that Beloved truly was a supernatural entity sent to wreak havoc on Sethe through revenge.  Beloved's true demise begins when Denver is brave enough to exit Sweet Home to find help for Sethe (in many forms).  Denver is able to outsmart the supernatural in this way, at the exact moment that Beloved is having her sweet revenge.  In my opinion, the fact that the prayer vigil is the gathering that "upsets" Beloved the most provides some proof of her as supernatural entity.  Ironically, this fact doesn't take away from Sethe being just as upset that Beloved is gone.  Luckily Paul D does end up convincing Sethe that Beloved was not, in fact, Sethe's "best thing."  Thus, the novel ends on a note of self-reliance.

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yeagerash | Student

The plot of Beloved focuses on Sethe's pain and grief, caused by her memories of killing her infant daughter to save her from a life of slavery. Thematically, Sethe's grief is intended to symbolize the larger pain and grief of enslaved and newly-freed black men and women in the U.S., who are haunted by the traumatic collective memories of the middle passage and plantation slavery. The character of Beloved therefore acts as an embodiment of the memories "haunting" both Sethe and the larger black community, continually inflicting pain and grief on them and refusing to leave.

The praying and laying-on of hands in the novel, led by Baby Suggs, represent the healing that can take place within the community through the mutual acceptance and love that the formerly enslaved people must show each other. Beloved's departure during the prayer session indicates that Sethe can learn to forgive herself, and that the painful memories of slavery in the U.S. can begin to heal, but only as the formerly enslaved people accept their freedom to love themselves and care for each other.