Set in post-Civil War Ohio, it is the story of Sethe, an escaped slave who has risked her life in order to wrench herself from a living death; who has lost a husband and buried a child; who has borne the unthinkable of killing her baby and not gone mad. Sethe, who now lives in a small house on the edge of town with her daughter, Denver, her mother-in-law, Baby Suggs, and a disturbing, mesmerizing apparition who calls herself Beloved. Sethe works at ‘beating back the past,’ but it makes itself heard in her memory; in Denver’s fear of the world outside the house; in the sadness that consumes Baby Suggs; whose childhood elonged to slavery.
Sethe’s struggle to keep Beloved from gaining possession of her present and to throw off the long-dark legacy of her past. Morrison attempts to show us the horrors of slavery through its affect on these characters. One way that she does this is by showing how desperate the characters are to get themselves and their loved ones away from that awful life known as slavery. Sethe shows this desperation when she sends her children away from Sweet Home, when she travels, alone and pregnant, from Sweet Home to Ohio, and when she attempts to kill her children to keep them from school teacher.
Although she hardly can get on without them, Sethe, in desperation, sends her children to live with their grandmother, Baby Suggs, to keep them from becoming slaves themselves. The depth of her need for her children is expressed when she says, “I wouldn’t draw breath without my children. This and the mere fact that she is saving milk for her baby girl who is living with her grandmother, shows her love for her children. Sethe suffers without them, yet she makes herself suffer because she knows that they are safer there. She sacrifices her time and the ability to be close to them in order to make sure that they are safe from slavery.
This sacrifice shows that slavery is horrid. Contrary to common sense and driven by her desperation to be free, Sethe, alone and pregnant, makes the journey to freedom. She is desperate and is willing to do anything to escape slavery, the school teacher, and his nephews. In Sethe’s mind, slavery and its affects are worse than the threat of death. This threat of death is genuine; Sethe and her baby, Denver, probably would have died had it not been for the white girl who saves Sethe by pushing her to go on. Sethe knew about the threat of death before she left. However, she . leaves anyway, seeking a life of freedom for erself and her children.
There must be something incredibly horrible about slavery that would drive her to go. Also an example of Sethe’s desperation is the fact that she attempts to kill her own children and succeeds in killing the baby girl. She herself says that the reason why she took the saw to their skin was to keep them safe from the schoolteacher and a life of slavery. She often uses this defense while talking to herself about Beloved. She states “Schoolteacher wouldn’t treat her the way he treated me. She says to Paul D, “I stopped him (schoolteacher). I took and put my babies where they’d be safe.
She meant the other side, the place where she, her children, and Baby Suggs would be together: heaven. The fact that she would try to kill very children, for whom she came 28 days ago, attests to the horror of slavery. Morrison tries to relay through Sethe that slavery is horrible. The fact that one could be so desperate to get one’s self and loved ones safe from the clutches of slavery testifies to this fact. Thus, Sethe’s actions, sending away her children, making that trip alone and pregnant, and attempting to murder of her children, stand as testimonies to the evils of slavery and its affects.