Online Custom «Law and Justice in "Beloved"» Essay Sample

Law and Justice in

The novel Beloved, inspired by the life of African-American slaves, is a horror-based drama surrounding the life of Sethe, who escapes slavery in Sweet Home moving to Ohio for freedom. The effects of the character living as a slave contribute largely to the decisions she makes in her life. Sethe kills her daughter and justifies it by claiming that she was protecting her children. Based on the facts of the case, one can consider the State of Ohio as the plaintiff and Sethe as the defendant. The prosecutor charges the character of manslaughter against her daughter Beloved. From the defendant’s side, circumstances led her to commit the act claiming that death was a better option for the daughter than being a slave. One can judge the character of Beloved and the impact of slavery on the lives of both Sethe and Beloved.

The Charge

In Beloved, the jury charges Sethe of killing her daughter.

The Prosecution Side

Shortly after Sethe’s escaping from Sweet Home (from slavery), the schoolteacher, Sethe’s master, comes to get her and her children back from her mother-in-law’s, Baby Sugg’s place, Ohio. After learning this, Sethe protests and decides to kill her children. However, she managed to kill only her daughter, named Beloved. A neighbor Stamp Paid witnesses these events as they unfold. He arrives when Sethe is slaughtering her daughter and thus prevents her from killing the other children. Later on, when Paul D. arrives at Sethe’s, home he realizes that the villagers exclude and hate her. Paul D. meets Stamp Paid who tells him the reason as to why the community of 124 despises the woman.

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The Defense Side

The accused Sethe acts the way she does because she is intoxicated by slavery and the reincarnation of her daughter Beloved. During her stay at Sweet Home as a slave, her master’s nephews raped and physically assaulted her. She seeks protection from her husband Halle, but he disappoints her, and ends up escaping alone and leaving her behind. Sethe experiences emotional and mental disturbance because of the disappearance of her husband and two sons. For these reasons, she seeks to kill her child Beloved rather than allow her live as a slave. According to Sethe, death is a better option when compared to slavery.

Basis for Evaluation

At Sweet Home, Sethe encounters brutality, physical assault, emotional alienation and mental disturbance. When the schoolteacher’s nephews rape her, she seeks her husband Halle for emotional support and protection. However, she does not find him and this exposes her to more assaults in the barn. Subsequently, Halle disappears from her life and that of their children (Morrison). These circumstances lead to the formation of Sethe’s character as being hostile, protective and possessive. She evaluates every situation from slavery perspective. Her experiences of being a slave at Sweet Home make her think that it would be better for her children to be dead rather than become slaves. When the schoolteacher comes to reclaim her and her children as his slaves, Sethe decides to kill her children rather than allow them to live as slaves. Additionally, when the white man, Denver’s employer, arrives at Sethe’s home to pick Denver for work, Sethe associates this with the moment when the schoolteacher had come to reclaim them as his slaves. This situation annoys her, and she attacks the man (Morrison).

 
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In the light of the above, one can justify the actions of Sethe. She is a depressed and emotionally unstable woman due to what she has faced and endured in life. Sethe’s decision to kill her daughter depicts her protective nature. She considers her children to be in a better position when dead than in slavery. Sethe claims that, “….was trying to put my babies where they would be safe” (Morrison). The disappearance of her husband and her two sons, and consequently, the loss of her daughter Beloved make her obsessed with trying to recover what she once had. This is why, when Beloved appears in her life, Sethe quickly believes that her dead daughter has come back. She denies herself everything, even the joy of living, to ensure that Beloved gets everything that she needs or demands in life (Morrison). Moreover, she attacks the white man to prevent him from taking away Denver. These actions display Sethe as an obsessive and protective character. Hence, based on these arguments, we can justify her actions.

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Morrison introduces her story with the ghost, Beloved. She states, “124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom” (Morrison). Such remarks characterize Beloved as a malicious, hostile, evil and disastrous. Since she has appeared in Sethe’s home, the family did not experience any peace. Like Sethe, Beloved lives in a state of desire for social cohesion and integration as well as emotional satisfaction. However, from a judge’s point of view, it would be an act of injustice to justify Beloved’s behavior. Although she is just seeking mother’s love and care, she does it using negative strategies that harm the society. Since Beloved’s presence in Cincinnati, there has been chaos and disorientation in the community. She causes harm to every person she encounters, except Denver, who is initially happy to have Beloved around. Additionally, Beloved helps her gain herself and embarks on her individuation (Morrison).

Beloved serves to remind the characters of their repressed memories, eventually causing the reintegration of their selves. In many instances, she destroys the lives of other people. For example, when she discovers that Paul D. does not like her, Beloved decides to assault him sexually. According to the law, sexual abuse or rape is among the major criminal activities that every judicial system highly condemns (Morrison). Moreover, Beloved insults, demands aggressively and throws tantrums to Sethe, her supposed mother. Her presence in Sethe’s life only consumes her energy and attracts rejection from the community. Beloved's character is one which the judicial system can neither justify nor tolerate because of the circumstances leading to her actions.

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Beloved vanishes when Sethe attacks the white man she considers her master coming back for them. At this juncture, Beloved appears more of a ghost than a real person. Nevertheless, her disappearance causes days of agonizing and denial to Sethe. The latter believes that Beloved was the daughter she killed and regarded her as “my best thing” (Morrison). Beloved’s disappearance brings harmony and peace in Cincinnati. Denver works for the community, and Paul D. returns to reunite with Sethe and together with Denver, they provide Sethe with emotional support after the loss of her Beloved.

Based on the above facts and issues of the novel Beloved, it is evident that judges can justify actions under certain circumstances. However, such justification requires adherence to some guidelines based on legal and moral perspective.

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The Judgment

The accused Sethe lived a life of agony, desperation and distress due to slavery. She justifies that she killed her daughter Beloved with an aim to protect her from becoming a slave. It is justifiable that Sethe did not have the desire to kill her daughter Beloved. Based on the circumstances presented in this case, Sethe is not guilty as charged.   

 

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