Both A Mercy and Beloved are filled with mother-child relationships, many of which drive the stories. In A Mercy, we see Florens and a minha mae, Florens and Lina, Sorrow and Complete, as well as Rebekka and her various children. In Beloved we have Sethe and Denver, Beloved, and her sons, as well as multiple mother figures for Sethe herself. I couldn’t even begin to cover the dynamics between mothers and children in the two of Morrison’s books that we’ve read so far in one blog post, though Sarah P. mentions Rebekka’s relation with her children here. Yet in thinking about mothers and children in Beloved, especially Sethe’s relationship with Beloved, I noticed that the way which Morrison introduces Beloved seems to create parallels between Beloved and the development of an infant.
It starts with Sethe’s need to go to the bathroom as soon as she sees Beloved, an event which replicates the breaking of Sethe’s water and Beloved’s birth.
Over the next few days, Beloved is sick in bed and waited on by Denver. During this time, Denver gives Beloved water, not food, which reminded me of the way that young babies can’t eat solid food, only nurse. Denver also has to clean Beloved’s sheets after she wets the bed, another parallel to a baby who has not yet been toilet trained.
When Beloved finally does eat, she only likes sweet things. The significance of this quirk puzzled me for a long time, and still does to an extent, but also seems to replicate a child’s obsession with sweets. Young children, like Beloved, can eat candy for every meal without worrying over the effect on their teeth and general health.
The one line that really made me visualize Beloved as a child, however, was this: “..she moved like a heavier one or an older one, holding on to furniture, resting her head in the palm of her hand as thought it was too heavy for a neck alone.” Although Morrison says Beloved’s movements were like an “older” person, my immediate thought was of a baby learning to walk, needing to use furniture as guidance. The mention of her head being too heavy for her neck also made me think of a young infant, who cannot hold her head up without support yet.
I have read Beloved before, but not with a critical eye, and so I am looking forward to Beloved’s development throughout the story, as I would like to see if she appears to continue through the stages of life in a short amount of time.