When we were asked in class to discuss the relation (if any) between accumulating snowfall and Beloved, I was drawing blanks. It almost felt as if I was trying to force a connection. But, after some discussion and brainstorming, my group and I introduced the idea that falling snow could be a reflection of the tension building between the characters in the story. Just as the early flurries of a blizzard appear harmless and somewhat pleasant, the tensions amongst the people in Sethe’s household give off the same vibe, with benign interactions increasing in danger with accumulation.
The first example is found in Beloved and Sethe’s relationship. It is pretty evident within the novel that Beloved is obsessed with Sethe. Amongst other evidence, Beloved “was in the window at two when Sethe returned, or the doorway; then the porch, its steps, the path, inching down Bluestone Road further and further each day to Meet Sethe and walk her back to I24. It was as though every afternoon she doubted anew the older woman’s return.” Now, this may be shrugged off as simple adoration, regardless of the extremity, but like snowfall, the problems revolve around the heaviness as well as the accumulation rather than the initial appearance. So far in the novel, Beloved’s obsession has not posed a threat to anybody’s well-being, but it seems as if problems will be soon approaching. After returning to the house and observing Sethe and Paul D’s intimacy, Beloved “felt like crying.” This shows that Beloved is also starting to become possessive over Sethe, not wanting to share her with anybody.
Furthermore, there is the peculiar scene where Sethe is choked by what she presumes to be the ghost of Baby Suggs. Denver, later accuses Beloved of being responsible for the choking. This part confuses me because I, myself do not know whose (or what’s) responsible. Although Denver sternly accuses Beloved of choking her mother, she also states that “She and Beloved were standing in the trees whispering, while Sethe sat on the rock.” This physically removes Beloved from Sethe’s presence while she is being choked.
Also, when Denver confronts Beloved, she says “I saw your face. You made her choke.” This is strange because Denver does not tell Beloved that she witnessed her misdeed, instead she incriminates her by her facial expression. When I first read that line, I automatically thought paranormal activity. It seems (to me) as if Denver senses that Beloved is responsible through some indirect contact. And considering the ghostly presence that haunts Denver’s home, I cannot dismiss this as a possibility. But, at the same time I cannot dismiss the possibility that Denver may be paranoid due to her upbringing in a haunted house. I thought it may be possible that Denver just rashly accuses beloved due to a gut feeling, and that her confidence stems from a reasonable inability to separate the obvious from the paranormal. With all that said, however, I do not doubt that Beloved could be responsible.
This incident points to another tension that I see building and that is the one between Denver and Beloved in their relationship. Just as Beloved is obsessed with Sethe, Denver is very fond of Beloved. Denver is always seeking the attention of Beloved, and would do whatever she can to guarantee some quality time with her, whether it be doing the chores together, or nursing Beloved back to wellness (on a couple occasions). It is also evident in the fact that Denver neglects to inform her mother of her suspicions with Beloved (choking her), that Denver is becoming dangerously attached. She would rather preserve her relationship with Beloved than warn her mother of their guest’s harmful intentions.
Lastly, we can see that there is a growing tension between Paul D and Beloved. Paul D has been suspicious of Beloved for quite some time now, and his suspicions are growing stronger after observing her obsession with Sethe. He asserts that Beloved is “shining” for Sethe the way that a woman naturally would for a man, and this troubles him.
I see this presently harmless snowfall, or tensions spread across several relationships, accumulating to cause trouble in the near future. And I feel similarly to Timothy, who said in class, “I see this ending very badly.”
One Reply to “Snow Tension”
I was thinking about the dynamics between Beloved, Sethe, Denver, and Paul D through your Snow Tension lens and I noticed some imagery that might make this concept even more interesting. We have traced Paul D’s following of the cherry blossoms since leaving Sweet Home. Sethe has the tree-shaped scars on her back. When the weather is still warm, Sethe is still the mother figure of 124. Throughout the transference of matter between her and Beloved, though, it becomes winter. The transformation culminates after the three women go ice skating. At this point, we start to see Beloved grow larger and Sethe smaller. The winter nearly blots out the life of the plants. Here, I’m going to make a stretch and relate winter to the past and the plants to the present. Thus, we come full circle with the last chapter of the novel. A very interesting layer included by Morrison!