Symbolism of the color red

In Beloved,  Morrison sets her novel up in a particular way so the reader can follow right along. Using flashbacks she captures the moment of the speaker expressing his/her feelings of event while narrating them. This use of patterns and motifs creates a seamless telling of the story so that the flashbacks of the memory do not separate the reader from the character. Instead, it synthesized the two so that both felt the same effect together.  This style indirectly allows the reader to identify with the character and the action at the same time to weave the character together in order for the reader to associate with the feelings that each character felt during that time period. Morrison uses a rhetorical element of colors to introduce the reader to the political connotations between black and white and more importantly the social reality of this time period.  Morrison uses color to show feelings or lack thereof is through Baby Sugg’s. She is the mother-in-law of Sethe and also was affected by the horrifying death of Beloved. After this incident, Baby Sugg’s “was suspended between the nastiness of life and meanness of the dead. Her life was anything but forgetfulness, she used the little energy left for pondering color”. Similar to Sethe, Baby Sugg’s was stripped of her rights. Her life revolved around giving and not taking. Hence, when the whites demanded Beloved, Sethe’s reaction was to protect the child. After the death of Beloved, Sethe and Baby Sugg’s become vulnerable to their frightening world through the lack of color. Objects become blurred or uncolorful. As a result, Baby Sugg’s died “ starved for color” and Sethe continued to confront the reality of survival and subjugation.

Morrison incorporates political realities through the use of color and the character Paul D. Color connotes many expressions and feelings for Paul D. Unlike Sethe and Baby Sugg’s, Paul D. never knew about the death of Beloved. Therefore, he never understood the outrages the ghost had in the house on Bluestone Road. His appearance was welcomed by Sethe and Denver. However, as he strode through the house, a reflection of a light appears before his eyes. This aura was the shadow of death haunting Sethe and Denver. For Paul D, it was a remembrance of him being a slave. The red symbolizes power in society and this “pulse of red light hadn’t come back and Paul D. had not trembled since 1856 and then for 83 days in a row” .For the first time in seventeen years Paul D. felt this red light of fear penetrating through his legs. Usually his hands would shake of fear, but his reaction this time was trembling in the legs. This power is the abuse Paul D. ran from when he was a slave. This illusion of red makes the reader remember this history of slavery and Morrison wants the reader not to forget the unacceptable. The function of color describes the pain Paul D confronted everyday of his life.  Indirectly, Morrison provides his emotions and the influence of white supremacy through the penetrating color of red.





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