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The Traumatic Theory Of Beloved English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1477 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The book is a mystery in itself never showing clearly what is what is going on. Because Beloved tells two different stories at the same time this book is the hardest book that I have ever read with all the twist and turns. Beloved revolves around the “Literary Trauma Theory”. The “Literary Trauma Theory” connects itself with historical trauma; historical trauma is a stressor from past events such as slavery which is also in the book Beloved. The historical trauma of slavery that is taken place in the book is horrific in its self, showing that living in that time was very difficult. The book Beloved was taken place in a small town called “Sweet Home” where slavery is a main factor which makes it tough for black people back then. The phrase trauma is wrapped around everyone’s life in Sweet Home because of slavery. Slavery in this book shows why slavery up to date still affects people.

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Another key factor in Beloved is identity. Identity lost is what everyone in Sweet Home is having a problem with. I know everyone may have suffered from a loss of identity in their life, even if they simply ask questions such as, what am I supposed to do in life? Or, where will my life take me? To me those are all ways people question their identity. The character Beloved suffers the most from identity lost, she doesn’t even really know who she is because she even ask herself the question, “who am I?” I even had to wonder who Beloved is because it is not clear whether she is human or a ghost because of how she is described in the book. Slavery is what makes everyone have their destruction of identity, it is stated by SparkNotes editors that:

Beloved explores the physical, emotional, and spiritual devastation wrought by slavery, a devastation that continues to haunt those characters who are former slaves even in freedom. The most dangerous of slavery’s effects is its negative impact on the former slaves’ senses of self, and the novel contains multiple examples of self-alienation. (SparkNotes Editors)

All the main characters have similar problems of identity and self-alienation in their own ways, for instance Paul D suffers from alienation he has this problem pretty bad because he feels alienation from himself, he hears screaming and does not know whether it is him or someone else. Sethe is another person that has problems throughout the book, she also feels alienated from herself and has identity destruction, and she also has self-esteem problems. Baby Suggs even struggles through those slavery times because she cannot support her family. SparkNotes editors state, “As a result of their inability to believe in their own existences, both Baby Suggs and Paul D become depressed and tired. Baby Suggs’s fatigue is spiritual, while Paul D’s is emotional”(SparkNotes Editors). This states how rough people really had it back in the slavery days because they were unable to cope with what was happening in their lives.

Additionally, Sethe is one character that has it hard in this book; to me she suffers the most out of all the characters. Repetition happens to Sethe when she frequently remembers the traumatic point in her life where she was held down by some men and they milked her breast. This is very disturbing to me because I view this as a form of rape even though they did not have actual sex with her, it is still sexual contact. The term fragmentation is also shown in Beloved by the same horrific point in Sethe’s life because she could not fully piece the whole scene together after it happened, whenever she told someone what happed she would catch blurs of the image because it was so traumatic to her. A historical trauma response happens to Sethe when Paul D tries to get closer to her and she suffers from low self-esteem and she seems to panic in that situation because she has flash backs of that terrible moment which has her struggle to express her true emotions. I’m sure that every girl who has experienced the traumatic scene of being raped, almost being raped, or being sexually assaulted period has had self-esteem problems after or has felt alienated due to that reason, it is just a common thing for women and even if it was to happen to a man to, they will feel the same. There is a lot of unresolved grief that also happens to Sethe where she suffers because it reinforces the trauma problem she is having in her life. Isolation is something of which Beloved struggles with while being in the form of a ghost, feeling as though she is alone and unconnected to the outside world keeps Beloved in that isolated state of mind. Beloved takes on an unhomeliness state of mind because she is extra-territorial to the house that she is living in; she doesn’t really leave that house, it is like Beloved is a ghost in a haunted house or she is bound to the house never to leave. Both Beloved and Sethe also suffer from abjection because they feel as though they have lost her identities. They are the main people to me who suffer from abjection or identity lost. In adding, even though all the characters in the book Beloved have similar problems Beloved and Sethe to me struggles the hardest because of their identity lost problems and as for Sethe again she also struggles with her children too because they also suffer with their own identities destruction.

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There are some key factors or symbols that are of major importance in the book Beloved. These symbols represent a lot of different things through the book that will help grasp what is going on in Beloved. The first symbol is the color red. The meaning of the color red can be interpreted many different ways in this book because it varies. Two examples of how the color red can vary is show by two characters Amy Denver and Paul D, SparkNotes editors claim, “Amy Denver’s red velvet, for example, is an image of hope and a brighter future, while Paul D’s “red heart” represents feeling and emotion” (SparkNotes Editors). I think that this is a correct observation in those two examples. To me the color red in Beloved signifies the strength and nature of a human’s life and their altogether existence as a person. The next symbol that is of importance is the symbolism of trees. In Beloved trees also have varying meanings, on one angle trees can mean life which relates also to our everyday life; in everyday life trees give oxygen which helps us to breathe and live because without trees humans and other living creatures would die, but in Beloved trees give life by show right paths and comforting the persons who need them most. For instance SparkNotes editors give another good observation where it is related to Sethe and Paul D claiming, “The beautiful trees of Sweet Home mask the true horror of the plantation in Sethe’s memory. Paul D finds his freedom by following flowering trees to the North, and Sethe finds hers by escaping through a forest” (SparkNotes Editors). The last symbol is the tin tobacco box that is owned by Paul D. Paul D feels as though all of his emotions are contained in this little tin tobacco box. The tobacco box rust and becomes supposedly unable to open which in turn locks away all of his emotions and alienates him for everybody including his own self.

In conclusion, the book Beloved is a complex one and not the easiest to understand, but reading on one may tend to grasp what is going on easier. The characters in this book are of difficulty the understand they lose their identities and struggle in retrieving them but the most complex character of them all was Beloved as I stated earlier, finding out whether she is a ghost or human was the most difficult because in the end Beloved turn out to be different representation of other people, such as Sethe’s dead child. Sethe lost her child, but when she meets Beloved she feels different things that makes Sethe have repeat thoughts of her dead baby, for instance when she is near Beloved she feels as though her water may have broken. Beloved also took on the name Beloved from what was written on Sethe’s dead babies tomb stone which gives another representation towards Sethe’s lost child. Although all of this takes place with Beloved it is still not shown fully what she really is because she comes off to be many different things. In all, Beloved makes it easier to see why it is understandable how slavery is of a great deal to our history and why it still plays a role in today’s life. Slavery impacted the lives of the people in this book a great deal because it was one of the reasons why they all felt alienated and why none of them new who they really were and also why this still happens to people now.


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