The slavery and its aftermath. The novel,

           The pursuit of an Afro- American for
a deep connection to a community process seems to be a consistent theme within
Toni Morrison’ s philosophy of life as displayed in her literary work – Beloved. In fact, the self exploration
of the protagonist and antagonist in Beloved
seem to be commenced only with the backing of a devoted community that adopts
certain traditional beliefs and values. This literary pattern in Beloved is Morrison’s way of taking up
the subject of the Afro American community’ s experience of slavery and its
aftermath. The novel, which was published during the 1980s – a time where
racism was a norm – shows both the dystopian and utopian properties of a “space
named home” and the “people named community” (Hinson, 2001). Morrison connects “people
and space” by showing the way “homes and communities” is a place to gather
strength, formulate strategy and rest, even though the community more often
than not is lacking in its role to resolve established and social ills. Morrison
focuses on the failures and the successes of reconstructing the identity of black
community in Beloved mainly through her two female protagonists – Sethe and
Denver. The failure and success of the community which is also represented by
rejection and acceptance can be explained by analysing the four different ways
the black community in Beloved deals
with the aftermath of slavery: the creation of grievances as a result from the
rejection of a community, the failure of the community to approach the victim,
the acceptance of the victim within the community, and finally, the creation of
a community of victims. (Hinson, 2001)

            As slavery divides families, Beloved provides several examples of
slaves and ex-slaves forming and depending upon strong communities that go beyond
the nuclear family. However, parts and parcel with the black community devotion
to its members, it also shows weakness through the rejection and exclusion. The
most significant example of rejection being the alienation of Sethe and by
extension her family.  To explain the context
– after Sethe’s broke out of the slavery, she moved
to Cincinnati to reunite with her children and mother-in-law, Baby Suggs. She
arrived at 124, a house continuously filled with people and happiness. “Where not one but two pots simmered on
the stove where the lamp burned all night long. Strangers rested while their
children tried on their shoes. Messages were left there, for whoever needed
them was sure to stop in one day soon.” (Morrison, 87) Sethe was overwhelmed
with love and safety, while Baby Suggs became the force of the community,
teaching love and respect to its congregation. “When warm weather came, Baby Suggs, holy, followed by every black man,
woman and child who could make it through, took her great heart to the
Clearing…” (Morrison, 87)
– However, the celebration for the whole black community turns out to be
the beginning of a highly complicated relationship between 124 and the rest of
the community. The relationship established between Sethe and the black
community defined her as a marginalized member. In the text, Sethe’s social
rejection on the part of the black community in Cincinnati is implied in the novel
from its very start. The narrator stresses the strain between Sethe’s house and
the rest of the town. The explanation provided in the text points out Sethe’s
murder of her eldest daughter as the main reason for her social alienation.

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          Due to the rejection Seethe faced, the rest of
the community does not interact either with her or with her daughter. Thus, they
seclude themselves within the walls of 124, resulting in them living in a
perpetual state of stillness – a predicament they can not break free from
themselves. Moreover, when Denver attempts to rejoin the community by attending
school, she becomes aware of her mother’s past – which then renders her deaf-mute
for years. Further into the novel, when her dead sister – beloved – returns she
begins to prey on Sethe, Denver then realizes that she must overcome her fears
and retake her position within the community. She admits to the truth of the
past, works through it to leave it behind –figuratively and literally, as she
leaves the house behind– and claims her space within the community. “Denver
hated the stories her mother told that did not concern herself, which is why
Amy was all she ever asked about. The rest was a gleaming, powerful world made
more so by Denver’s absence from it. Not being in it, she hated it and wanted
Beloved to hate it too, although there was no chance of that at all.” (Morrison, 87) Consequently,
in this case the acceptance within the community can help the individual defeat
her demons. Even though the black community can victimize an individual or a
group of individuals, they can also find comfort with each other, creating a
community of outcasts – as different people come together as a community to  provide food for Sethe and Denver when they were in need. (Hinson,
2001) 

      In
order to find peace with history, the black community in Beloved produces an environment that attempts to organize itself by
unintentionally adopting the essence of the white community- which focuses its
anger and humiliation on weaker subjects and pits members of the same community
against each other.  This essence,
companied with the conventional role tied to black women is what creates the
divide between Sethe and the rest of the community. Because they became the
very thing they ran away from, by excluding 124 the black community fell prey
to the systematic – creating conflicts that must be reckoned with before the
community can find peace in the present. 
In addition, the fact that the social knowledge of slaves – an then
ex-slave – was limited reduced them to a state of unawareness; in other words,
the white community was the only form of social construct they understood.
Social improvement, thus, can only be attained through social equality; this is
the fundamental problem behind the irregularities of the white society and, therefore,
the freed slaves’ failed replica. Parts and parcel, Morrison focuses on revealing
slavery as the source of violence that dwells inside the community around 124. Beloved captures both community and text
in cycles of repetition and reciprocal violence. Morrison proves how slavery applies
pressure on African American communities, pressure that, in her own words,
creates in them “a new kind of white
folks’ jungle” (Morrison, 199). Helpless in confronting their autocrats,
the community strikes out against equally powerless members of their own
community. Hence, violence began by white’s spreads within black communities,
perverting and twisting emotions. (Hinson, 2001)

        Beloved is unlike Morrison’s other
novels in its willfulness to recognize slavery and white oppression as the foundation
of violence in Afro-  American communities
– which as a result renders the black community in Beloved incapable of redeeming the violence of slavery as the
community itself is a continuation of the atrocities of the slave trade. Morrison
exposes the violent repercussions of slavery, when Sethe’s children were about
to be taken into slavery and she responds with an unfamiliar form of violence,
defending herself the only way she knew how. She shows how Beloved’s murder
continues a chain of reciprocal violence that snares the community in the past
and produces a plot which is similarly bound to the past. The community’s
crisis of violence is reproduced in a repetitive pattern, moulded out of returns
of the suppressed memories of slavery. All in all, Beloved tells the unspeakable secret of violence in the black
community.