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Apocalypse Then Essay

1462 words - 6 pages

It is always evident that under situations of extreme stress people find themselves committing actions with irreparable ramifications. In Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved, a flashback involving four white riders, schools teacher, his nephew, a slave catcher and sheriff, ride authoritatively toward 124 Bluestone Road. The riders survey the family scene with care because of the value of the slaves. “The four horsemen” refers to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Famine, War, Pestilence, Death) as described in the Bible. Their arrival signifies the end of the world, just as schoolteacher and his envoys also signify the end of Sethe’s twenty-eight days of happiness. Sethe ...view middle of the document...

They are ominous embodiments of war, death, famine and pestilence. Each of the riders represents one of the aspects of inhumanity. The parallels between the biblical icons and the book’s contemporaries help to identify the reasoning behind each side’s perspective of slaves and freedom, especially after witnessing the violence later in the chapter. As soon as the perspective shifts back to the main characters it is revealed that the “nigger…with the flower in her hat” is Baby Suggs, and shows again that the schoolteacher fails to recognize the humanity of black slaves (157). One can understand Baby Suggs as a human being, but in the eyes of the schoolteacher and his company all blacks are labeled as a different specimen of animal. The schoolteacher is perturbed by the stare of ‘their’ eyes and has to exit unnecessarily discomforted by that elementary humanity. In comparison to the perspective of the slave catchers, Sethe and the others describe the situation with complete depiction of human traits including names and emotions of fear and sadness that the schoolteacher fails to recognize when he is sent to capture them. Paul D later says the act resulted from mistaken identity, she rectifies herself stating that it was not her, “job to [decide] what was worse,” but to, “know what is,” and, “keep [her children] away from what [she] knows [as] terrible” (165). This view of a slave’s price of freedom for their children is a timeless example of martyrdom and sacrifice. Like other biblical icons Sethe makes a sacrifice that in the eyes of a mother, and God, is divine and above all else.When Sethe kills her child rather than see it brought into slavery, Morrison undoubtedly refers to Revelations when the riders exit the road and enter the yard. Sethe describes a, “heart that pumped out love,” and a, “mouth that spoke the Word,” like divine grace that, “did not count” because the riders entered her yard anyway (180). Using God’s grace as enveloping 124 shows what Sethe believed as a place for the chosen like in the story of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, but in this case they had invaded the righteous anyway. The reckoning arrives as a tremendous violence with flowing blood, as well as a “disruption of maternal relationship that is symbolic of upheavals of the Day of Judgment” (Jesser, 11). Sethe’s fury is reminiscent of Godly wrath present in other places in the bible. And as in much of the other bible stories, Sethe is betrayed not only by the her oppressors but also by her own people who turn their backs on her and her family. Schoolteacher and his entourage witness the horrific scene unfold before them, the nephew trembles as he witnesses Sethe, the person whom he sexually abused, murdering her child. Schoolteacher and his companions deduce that too much “freedom” has reduced the slaves to brutal savagery (159). In...

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