“Beloved, You Are Mine”:
The Unbreakable Bond Between Mothers and Daughters As Seen in Beloved by Toni Morrison
Beloved by Toni Morrison tell the story of three women – Sethe, Denver, and Beloved. Sethe is a wounded woman. In order to prevent her daughter from experiencing slavery, she decides to end her daughter’s life. It is a decision that only mothers may be able to understand. This decision haunts Sethe, and prevents her from understanding that, whereas Beloved is dead, Denver is still alive. Showing the interesting relationships between mother and her dead daughter, and mother and her daughter who is still alive, Beloved shows the powerful connection that exists between mother and her daughters, as well as between sisters.
Living with her mother and the baby’s ghost in 124, Denver is lonely. Her mother is occupied with the thought of her dead daughter that she does not have enough energy left to pay attention to her daughter who is still alive. At one point, Denver tells Sethe, “I can’t no more. I can’t no more” (14). When Sethe asks, “Can’t what? What can’t you?” Denver says, “I can’t live here. I don’t know where to go or what to do, but I can’t live here. Nobody speaks to us. Nobody comes by. Boys don’t like me. Girls don’t either” (14). Girls and boys do not talk to Denver because they know Denver’s mother was in prison once, and they know why. Denver also learns that Denver herself had been in prison with her mother when she was only a baby. With her mother who refuses to look at her “[a]s though the size of it was more than vision could bear” (14), and her own fear that her mother may do to her what she did to her sister, Denver is terribly lonely all the time.
Can a mother’s love be powerful enough to kill her daughter? When Sethe killed Beloved, she killed a huge part of herself. No one relationship between mothers and daughters will be the same, and for Sethe’s case – who grew up in slavery – there may be too many risks for mothers and daughters to be able to have a “normal” relationship. Regardless, Sethe loved her daughter fiercely, even if her decision may not be completely understandable for readers.
What Denver needs to realize is that her mother loves her, too. She may not be able to see that because she may not realize that her mother loves both her and her sister, but in different ways. Paul D thinks this is risky. He thinks:
[f]or a used-to-be-slave woman to love anything that much was dangerous, especially if it was her children she had settled on to love. The best thing, he knew, was to love just a little bit; everything, just a little bit, so when they broke its back, or shoved it in a croaker sack, well, maybe [she]’d have a little love left over for the next one… (43)
Paul D believes it is in Sethe’s best interests to spare her love for her children, so that she can save herself a little bit when her children are taken away from her. However, Sethe feels differently about the meaning of motherhood. When Paul D reminds her that Denver is a grown child, Sethe tells him, “I don’t care what she is. Grown don’t mean nothing to a mother. A child is a child. They get bigger, older, but grown? What’s that supposed to mean? In my heart it don’t mean a thing” (43). Even when Paul D reminds her that she cannot protect Denver forever, Sethe says “I’ll protect her while I’m live and I’ll protect her when I ain’t” (43). For Sethe, motherhood means not just loving her children. It also means protecting them for as long as she can.
Whether it was from Sethe’s fierce love and regret, or Beloved’s fierce love and regret for what happened, Beloved does come back to her mother. This shows that there is an unbreakable bond between mothers and daughters. Sethe’s pain and suffering is shown when she confesses that “didn’t have the time to explain before because it had to be done quick” (200). However, she believes, or wants to believe, that Beloved had come back to her of her own free will.
Towards the end of the novel, all three women – Denver, Sethe, and Beloved – speak, even though it’s not clear who is saying which part, or whether they are all speaking in unison:
You are my sister
You are my daughter
You are my face; you are me
I have found you again; you have come back to me
You are my Beloved
You are mine
You are mine
You are mine. (216)
All mothers are mothers, daughters and sisters. All daughters are mothers, daughters and sisters. The connection between mothers and daughters are powerful, unbreakable, and eternal. Even if circumstances in life prevent them from living peaceful lives, they find each other again. As shown in Beloved, the relationship between mothers and daughters are such that they will always love, protect, and ache for each other.
Morrison, Toni. Beloved a Novel. Vintage International, 2004.