Theme of Family and Community in Beloved

Slaves were considered private property and hence slave owners broke up families by buying or selling individual family members. Baby Suggs children, Paul D’s brother, Paul D himself; are sold off at will. Though slavery makes it almost impossible, the Black slaves have very strong bonds with family and community. Sethe hardly remembers her mother and she doesn’t want this to happen to her children. Hence, she has a very strong attachment and connection with her children. Baby Suggs welcomes Sethe to her home, embracing her daughter in-law and her four grandchildren. She nurses Sethe who lands up at her house and even organizes a feast for the community to celebrate Denver’s arrival. Her son Halle sacrifices his only holiday, Sunday, for five years to buy his mother’s freedom. At Sweet Home the slaves look out for each other.

The familial bonds that are strengthened by slavery are sometimes dangerous too, as shown by the severity of Sethe’s motherly instincts. Sethe attempts to protect her children by trying to kill them. Paul D tells Sethe, her motherly love is “too thick.” But Sethe contradicts him: “Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t no love at all.”

Individuals need the support of their community in order to survive. After reaching Cincinnati with her baby, Sethe experiences what it is to be a part of a larger community, with people coming up to talk to her and ask her things. But her joy is short-lived. After she returns from jail the interactions end. Paul D and forty-six prisoners manage to escape from prison in Georgia by stepping in tandem with each other. It is the community that saves Sethe from mistakenly killing Mr. Bodwin and committing another sin. Cincinnati’s Black community plays a major role in helping Sethe exorcise her demons. At the end of the novel, the women try to make up for their wilful indifference by gathering at 124 to collectively pray for Sethe.

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