Monday, December 3, 2018

An Adult Baby: Morrison's Duality

From pages 248-252, Toni Morrison provides a snapshot into the brain of Beloved. For the first time in the story, the reader hears the rawest form of Beloved's thoughts, so raw that Morrison deliberately excludes all punctuation and conventional grammar in order to better depict the inner workings of Beloved's mind. The effect of this style is profound; Morrison develops a image that, in layman's terms, can only be described as an adult baby. How could an author grapple with this oxymoron in such an elegant way? Morrison masters this art on pages 248-252.

Morrison depicts an adult baby in this passage most prominently by using elementary style sentences to portray incredibly complex ideas. For example, one of the striking lines in the chapter reads, "in the day diamonds are in the water where she is and turtles" (251). Throughout the story, diamonds are used to represent stories and story telling. So, in a literal (baby) understanding of this phrase, Beloved says that Sethe is in the water with turtles and diamonds. In a figurative (adult) understanding of this phrase, Beloved is identifying Sethe and her stories in the water, which I personally believe is used to represent Sethe's past. The addition of the turtles in the most confusing part of this phrase because up until this point, turtles have not held any greater meaning. Hence, the turtles are an image meant to add detail to the depiction of Sethe in the water. The depiction of Sethe immersed in her past, surrounded by her stories, is a powerful image, one much more complex than a woman standing in water with a turtle.

Another striking example of baby versus adult imagery: "I see her take flowers away from leaves" (248) (this phrase is also repeated later). Removing the flowers from leaves is a simple and literal image, however, Beloved speaks of something greater here. My best interpretation is that the flowers are the best parts of Beloved's existence, possibly even Sethe herself, and the leaves are Beloved's history, the parts she doesn't want to see. The leaves are the fact that she was killed by her own mother.

Therefore, these short phrases depict a greater duality of Morrison's writing where she constantly creates a literal (baby) and figurative (adult) image for the reader to grapple with. What I know for certain is that nothing in Beloved can be interpreted one way. Beloved is both the baby and the adult.

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