Memory and Rememory in Beloved
The novel Beloved by Toni Morrison is told in a flashback manner, in line with the workings of the human mind. Throughout the novel, the characters work to avoid the past because it is filled with pain and horror for them. The characters must come to grips with these experiences, accept and recognize them in their consciousness. The memories of the past are recollected through rememories that have been repressed in order to avoid the pain of reality. The rememory of certain events can be aroused unexpectedly through many different devices. The sight, sound, or touches of a place or event are all triggers that can enable rememory to occur. These images brought back serve to heal the suffering brought on through past experiences. Morrison's thematic concept of memory and rememory is defined through her transitions between past and present, the triggers that set off the two, and the effect on the novel.
The transitions from past to present and back again are shown through the suppression of memory. Prior to Paul D's visit, Sethe had suppressed her "rememories" and chose to block the experiences she knew she could not keep hidden. The characters cannot directly address the issue of their pas
The ghost baby is a physical representation of the past. These "unspeakable" memories force them into the consciousness of their experiences. The reality of the past can only be shown through rememory. They avoid the past because "if you go there and stand in the place where it was, it will happen again" (Pg. For Sethe "the plash of water or the sight of her shoes" (Pg. 6) brought back the memories of her terrible past. For the characters of Beloved, it seems that although the memories are living entities in their own right, they are all capable of doing harm. The characters keep their past locked in their "tobacco tins" (Pg. She tries hard to "remember as close to nothing as was safe" (Pg. The realms of past and present are two that must remain distinct. Beloved serves to haunt, to propel, and to force the characters to resurrect those memories stored in the recesses of their hearts and minds. Memories brought on through the presence of a thought or sight subject the characters to the pain that lies within the rememory. The ghost of the baby Beloved represents the terror of the past and the characters must confront the events which took place upon their escape from slavery and come to terms with them in all their violence and reality.