What Does Water Symbolize in T. Morison's Novel "Beloved"
Water. As simple as it may sound, water has a much deeper and more powerful meaning. Water can express power in the form of a storm or a huge ocean wave. It can be used to clean off a bruise or to grow plants on the Earth. Water is also used to quench our thirst and refresh our mind, body, and soul. It possesses the power of total destruction, yet it holds the bases of all life. In the novel Beloved, Toni Morrison uses water to symbolize freedom, birth, death, and escape.
Paul D was saved by water. Paul D was sent to prison in Alfred, Georgia because he tried to kill Brandywine. The prison had forty-six inmates who were all black men. The prisoners were locked in small boxes in the ground at night and were subject to sexual abuse and hard chain gang work during the day. “ Occasionally a kneeling man chose gunshot in his head as the price, maybe, of taking a bit of foreskin with him to Jesus.” During this time a man’s breaking point was challenged each day it was traumatizing for Paul D. Then it rained. The water gave Paul D his escape and freedom. The rain raised the water level so that the prisoners could dive through the mud under the bars and escape. Through a storm and total destruction, the water helped Paul D escape from the chain gang to freedom.
The river. Sethe gives birth to Denver in a boat on the Mississippi River with the help of Amy Denver. “ As soon as Sethe got close to the river her own water broke loose to join it” The water represents Beloved’s rebirth and Sethe could now begin sharing her life with Beloved again. “ A fully dressed woman walked out of the water” Even though Beloved was murdered by Sethe she continues to live. The rebirth reveals the pain and struggles of childbirth and motherhood and the sacrifices that are made. When Sethe killed Beloved it was out of care and love because she did not want her child going through the horrors of slavery that she faced herself. The second birth is like a second chance for Sethe. “ I come out of the blue water” This quote ties together Beloved and Denver because both of their entrances into Sethe’s life are connected to water and the deliverance from water.
The Middle Passage. The Middle Passage was a stage of the transatlantic slave trade in which slaves were transported in bodies of water. Toni Morrison uses Beloved and the symbol of water to describe Beloved’s journey on the boat and her mental state afterward. “ Spores of bluefern growing in the hollows along the riverbank float towards the water in silver-blue lines hard to see unless you are in or near them, lying right at the river’s edge when the sunsets are low and drained.” This quote goes deeper than just water, Toni Morrison is trying to say that if you were not in that boat you don’t know or can’t see what they saw because you weren’t there going through the horrors that they went through and even further it is impossible to know what it was like being black unless you were black. When slaves would jump off the ships to the water it wasn’t just suicide or acts of craziness it was freedom and in order to understand that you have to be in their shoes. They jumped because they knew death was better than bondage.
In conclusion the symbol of water provides readers with a deeper meaning of the word and the many opportunities it brings. Throughout the novel, many characters were faced with trials and tribulations but the water helps them escape to freedom or escape through death. Toni Morrison uses this symbol to capture the pain and nature of slavery but to also keep to safety and stillness of water as a whole.
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