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The Hidden Meaning in the “Haunted House”

Upon reading the first three chapters of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, it becomes evidently clear that the house where Sethe and Denver live is haunted in more ways than one. Early on we learn that Sethe is haunted by the house because her unnamed child is buried there with a headstone that simply reads “Beloved.” Denver is scared to live there because of how isolated it makes her feel. However the cultural and emotional significance that the house has on both Sethe and Denver goes much farther beyond this.

The house holds significant influence for Sethe. Despite being an escape slave, she is not yet truly free. she feels trapped by her home, and I think that this lack of autonomy can be translated into what was also effecting her culturally in the story. She may have escaped the horrors of slavery, but even freed slaves were still horribly mistreated and struggled to become involved and respected members of their communities. While she is no longer enslaved, she is still subject to the racism and discriminatory culture that plagues America. In addition to being trapped and isolated because of her race, I thought that Sethe was also being trapped in the household because of the fact that she is a woman and a mother. Not only are there ramifications about her race in this time period, but Sethe is also trapped and held back because of her gender. I look forward to reading about how Morrison explores these themes as the novel continues.

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3 Comments

  1. Nora Apt Nora Apt

    The headstone which reads “Beloved” helps to portray this harsh intersection of race and gender in this time period. In exchange for sex, Sethe has the engraver carve Beloved on her child’s headstone. Sethe’s race leads to overall inhumane treatment by white individuals and her gender leads to objectification.

  2. Emma Joaquin Emma Joaquin

    Sethe claimed she did not want to live their home because she will never run from anything again. Although, initially I assumed it was only about the ghost of her baby, your point about her race and gender holding her back makes sense as well. Even if she did run, the world she’d find would not necessarily be better for her.

  3. Michael Paul Michael Paul

    You offer a great connection between the 124 house and slavery. While Sethe might feel trapped within her house, though, Denver doesn’t want to leave. To her, the house is all she knows. This is a scary and haunting thought that those born within confines don’t know any better. She thought that people mistook the house for being bad in the same way that some slaves might have claimed their masters were good for not punishing them as much. Although we don’t yet know the truth of the 124 house nor the purpose of its ghost, it is still clear that both Sethe and Denver have no intention of leaving.

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