Christine VuDecember 8, 2017Period 5Beloved’s Death Close ReadingChapter sixteen of Toni Morrison’s novel, Beloved, is told from the perspective of The four horsemen: the schoolteacher, schoolteacher’s son, sheriff, and slave catcher. These four horsemen symbolize the four horsemen of the apocalypse from the Bible, exemplifying the horrors of slavery and how this episode is the only time the story is told from a white person’s perspective. When the four horsemen arrive at the shed, they see Sethe holding a blood-soaked child to her chest and Denver, an infant, by the heels in the other hand. The schoolteacher believes that Sethe had “gone wild” since his nephew had “overbeat her” (149).
Sethe will never be the same person as she was before: she has transformed into an over-beaten hound after the schoolteacher’s nephew sucked the milk from her breast. Although Sethe’s maternal love is what drove her to kill her child, what the schoolteacher saw was chaos; Sethe not suited to return to Sweet Home. Since Sethe’s children were dead, or nearly dead, the schoolteacher thought that they were useless, which ultimately saves them from being taken up in captivity once again.Finally, Sethe, herself, narrates chapter eighteen, allowing the audience to recognize Sethe’s motive behind her unforgivable actions. Milk represents a strong relation between a mother and her child, and for Sethe, being a mother was the most important role of her life as she believed that “milk was all she ever had” (159). Driven by the need to protect her own children, Sethe’s determination in murdering her own child is an act against slavery since she believes that death is preferable over a life of exposure to the physical and emotional horrors brought upon by slavery. Sethe’s love shown in her killing her baby also represents how she saved her baby. Sethe did not the whites to degrade her children, like how she was by two white boys that held her down and stole her milk from her.
Sethe was unable to come accept the reality that she faced, murdering her own children. When Sethe attempts to tell Paul D the story of the murder, she would just continue circling around the room, unable to “pin it down for anybody who had to ask” (163). Similarly to how Sethe is never able to “pin the murder down,” the novel is never clear about the story of Sethe murdering her children, remaining a circle of mystery and possibility.