Strength and Loving Oneself

Toni Morrison communicates empowering life lessons through her characters’ personalities. Baby Suggs, being Sethe’s mother-in-law, is a mother figure for her but for the reader as well. She has a passage about loving oneself that begins prominent to their situation and then broadens and becomes relatable to all people. The context that Baby Suggs talks about is white people not loving black people, or their skin and hands. A person’s skin represents who they are and their history. A black person’s hands were a threat and a means of expressing themselves. They could use their hands to work hard and advance in life, theoretically. After this, her passage about loving oneself shifts and reads like she is speaking directly to the reader. “You got to love it, you!” Baby Suggs shouts (Morrison 104). She mentions flesh again, flesh that needs to be loved, breaking down the body: feet that need rest, backs that need support, and arms that are strong. Strength, resting, and support and all connected as are feet, arms, and the spine of the human body. The spine, which is the center of the body, needing support emphasizes that people cannot make it through life alone. Community and lifting others up is important, as is lifting oneself up in times when they feel alone. The passage wraps up narrowing the target audience again and specifying back to its original. “The dark, dark liver—love it, love it…”, Caucasian skin is prized and the darker of a skin tone that someone has the less human he was treated. The less a person is like the well-off Caucasian family, the harder of a time others and life would have given him which is all the more importance to love himself deeply. Repeating the words “dark” and “love” curate the message of value. A person who loves their self is never alone and always with a friend. Feeling supported and strong, able to rest when needed. Baby Suggs teaches the reader about strength. She encourages laughing, crying, and dancing. Flushing one’s emotions out. Keeping everything in and seeming unaffected is a false sense of strength in humans. Feeling and facing emotions is courageous and that is how to move past them.  

One thought on “Strength and Loving Oneself”

  1. In focusing on Baby Suggs’ character in the novel, you point out perhaps a stretch in genre. When you said, “she has a passage about loving oneself that begins prominent to their situation and then broadens and becomes relatable to all people”, I wondered what the text would become if it was analyzed through the lens of the self-help genre. Especially since the beginning of the pandemic, self-help books are at the forefront of popular literature. Your claim that Baby Suggs’ is suggesting to “all people” that they love themselves does not stray from the core of this popularity. I wonder if there’s anywhere else in the book, besides in the context of Baby Suggs, that this analysis would be applicable.

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