– Internal Conflicts Essay, Research Paper
The conclusion of the novel Beloved is packed with internal reconciliations, retributions and salvations, both those that were accomplished and those that were narrowly missed. The two main characters that did experience a reconciliation, retribution or salvation in the largest degree, or at least should have, in my opinion, were Denver and Sethe.
Denver was raised in an environment that some would deem not entirely healthy. To start with, her entire family was shunned by the community due to some unspeakable act committed by her mother, of which she was never explained. Her family was in shambles: her father disappeared long ago, her grandmother on her deathbed, her brothers on the verge of running off, and her mother a broken woman, all of which eliminated a solid support base in dealing with the community. Finally, to make matters worse, the ghost of her dead
infant sister haunted the house, causing troubles wherever she could and constantly making mischief. Needless to say, Denver did not have the strong background often needed to make a successful go in the world. Yet she did make an attempt, until finally beaten down and forced into a self-imposed exile by an innocent question by a young boy, “Is it true your ma killed your baby sister?” that turned everything around and made even her strongest attempts seem worthless.
And she was forced to stay inside and live a lonely life, brightened only when Beloved finally appeared. And when Beloved eventually became a detrimental force in Denver and Sethe’s life, Denver was forced to enter the world and society. And her meek and gracious nature gained her immediate acceptance. “It didn’t stop them from caring whether she ate and it didn’t stop the pleasure they took in her soft ‘Thank you.’” Although it was a necessity, Denver was able to break through the fear she had of society and of leaving 124. Her biggest personal weakness was resolved by the conclusion of the book, and she is prepared to enter into a spot in the community and not be excluded because of the actions of her mother and the overshadowing ghost of her baby sister.
Sethe’s retribution or personal reconciliation, however, was not nearly as smooth or complete as Denver’s. Actually, Sethe’s reconciliation was not even acheived within the confines of the book. It could very well have been, but the author took a less satisfying route towards the resolution which left a lot of questions concerning Sethe unanswered.
In my personal (and humble) opinion, I believe that a much more satisfying ending would have involved Sethe getting rid of the spirit of Beloved on her own. Although, at the time of the “Misery” (the name given to the slaying of Beloved) she believed that she was doing the right thing, and may even have been able to justify it to herself then and throughout the rest of her life, she still was never able
to forgive herself. The guilt that she felt was unbearable. And Beloved was merely an extension of that guilt, incorporated into the
real world and a way for Sethe to subconsciously torture herself while
providing a constant reminder of the crime itself. When Paul D. “forced” the spirit away, it came back in a fleshly form to cause even more problems. There are even indications that Beloved is feeding off of Sethe, in a way as a succubus. “Sethe’s eyes were bright but dead” and “Beloved, who was getting bigger.”
In my utopian ending, Sethe would have fought off the guilt and been able to forgive herself. She would have acknowledged that, yes, it was the wrong decision, but she can’t let it destroy her life and that of her family and friends. Although she had made a mistake, it was almost two decades ago and it is time to move on. Although self-forgiveness is often a very difficult to gain thing, it is one of the greatest of virtues and once you have self-forgiveness, you can have
everything. Had Sethe been able to forgive herself, the healing of other characters would have stemmed from this. She would have been able to rejoin the community, thereby also the exile of Denver. Paul D. would have been able to live there in peace, and the idea of “a family” may have been possible. Even the spirit of Beloved (had my idea of a “projection of guilt” been wrong) would have
been able to sleep in peace and trouble Sethe no more.
Yet the actual ending of the book is different. Denver turns out to be the savior of the day by gradually gaining the support of the community, who grew concerned and forced away the spirit of Beloved to liberate Sethe. Sethe ends the novel emotionally shattered, but with the strong souls of both Paul D. and Denver to lean on for her recovery. And the ending does leave room for recovery and redemption for Sethe. Over time, she may learn to forgive herself for what he’s done. But, there is also the possibility that she may not, only time and an added chapter to the book would tell. (or possibly a sequel)
Although the book doesn’t end as I would ideally like it too, it does have a fundamentally happy ending. The eventual villain is vanquished, the heroine and her man get back together, they are all welcomed back into the community, and the damage done to the heroine may eventually be made better. And that is all that can ever be asked for in a good book, right?