Growing up. A phrase seen as domineering and enticing. If one does not get the chance to grow up he misses the window of opportunity to tap into the person he is meant to be and what he is to accomplish. Toni Morrison acknowledges this opportunity in her novel Beloved through her reference of slavery, its consequences and the idea that when it comes to love there is no distinction between what is right and what is wrong. The book starts off with Sethe, the protagonist, living with her daughter Denver in a house that is haunted by the ghost of Sethe’s other daughter whom she killed in order to save her from returning to slavery. The book continuoulsy reverts between characters of the book and their past experiences so the reader can gain perspective and reasoning behind the events taking place in the present setting. However, the most important characteristic of the book is the idea that humans in general are incapable of possession and that the exercising of possessiveness in the end leads to chaos.
Every character in the book has a memory or scar that symbolizes possession. For Sethe, it is the “clump of scars” (Morrison 25) on her back from where she was whipped and also the memory of her owner’s nephew “ taking her milk” (19) from when she was still on the plantation. Her scar symbolizes a tree,”inviting; things you could trust and be near; talk to if you wanted to” (25) but for Sethe it symbolizes experience coupled with possession. The experience of evolving from being a slave and forced into a life of submission into a life of freedom and self content and the possession her slave holders had over her and took from her. Denver’s symbol of possession originates from the the story of her mother killing her sister and trying to kill her brother and constantly living in fear of the idea that her mother might kill her as well. Sethe’s inconcious possession from Denver keeps her from developping into an independent woman who can survive on her own. Then there is Beloved, the ghost of the dead daughter in human form who comes to Sethe and Denver’s house only to slowly gain possession over Sethe and force her to focus all attention towards her. All these forms of possession bring out the hypocrisy of human nature where we do not desire to be possessed by others but enjoy the idea of holding power over others. The three women in the book strived to escape possession but in the end became the possessed or possessors stinting their own development into the people they were meant to be and hindering them from the good they could have done.Children are content with ownership whether it be from having power over our toys to being the leader in a social setting. Growing up, however, aids them in realizing that ownership over another or being owned does not ellicit happiness nor does it improved their own development into maturity. The point when one reaches the conclusion that he possess nothing but himself and his own wellbeing is when he has also made it through his journey of “growing up”. Yet this claim begs one to ask, do most people reach this ending point in their lives? And if they don’t, are they still considered to be “grown up”? What do they possess to make it so?