English III AP period 3A
The Dual Endings of Beloved
The dual endings of Beloved offer two different viewpoints on the legacy of slavery in black communities in the United States. The first of the two endings which hints at a happy ending with the possibility of Sethe and Paul D living happily shows the possibility for happiness in the freedom that was not only achieved by Sethe and Paul D after being released from slavery, but also by all African Americans in the South after the ending of slavery. The second ending to the book, which describes Beloved's continued haunting of 124, represents the continued hold of the atrocities of slavery upon Sethe and Paul D as well as upon the African American community as a whole. These two separate conclusions show the possibility for happiness that was available after slavery as well as how those who took advantage of that possibility were never truly free of the memory of slavery.
Sethe and Paul D's quasi-romantic relationship, although it gives no guarantee of happiness for the two of them, does hint that their happiness together is very possible. Paul D, after leaving 124 to get away from Beloved returns to Sethe after the women of the town get together and expel Beloved from 124, returns to Sethe. Although Sethe is in a bad mental state, Paul D is able to comfort her, and he even hints at making a happy future together with her. By saying, “Sethe, me and you, we got more yesterday than anybody. We need some kind of tomorrow,” Paul D makes it seem like there is a strong possibility of him and Sethe living together happily. Paul D, although he is confused by Beloved's presence when he is living at 124, while he is living away from Sethe realizes that he has run away from many things in his life: the military, the prison, settling down after the end of slavery, etc. He also realizes that Sethe eliminates this desire to run, and he in fact wants to stay with her and to not have to run anymore. This realization, brought about by Denver's pleading, prompts him to return to 124 to see Sethe. Sethe's response to his offer to spend the future together, which ends the chapter, however, leaves the future ambiguous. She says, “Me? Me?” This uncertain, questioning statement provides no real insight into Sethe's view on the matter of her future. Her fractured mental state may be too damaged for her to ever be happy again. At this point, she may not even want to return to a life with Paul D. In this way, Morrison creates ambiguity as to the true ending of Beloved, and it is left to the reader to decide what they think will become of Sethe and Paul D.
The second ending provides an explanation for what happened to Beloved after she ran away. Her footprints by the river, because of their ambiguous existence, elude to her continued haunting of 124. The footprints are sometimes there and sometimes not. They also change shape depending upon the person who sees them. Their continued presence indicates that Beloved is still present in 124 after the end of the story, and she may still be haunting it. Whether she is still haunting it in the malicious fashion that she was in the beginning of the novel is not clear. Beloved's presence at 124 detracts from the possibility of happiness for Sethe and Paul D. Beloved is a reminder to Sethe of her pain during slavery and her pain after she had escaped from slavery. She is a reminder of the suffering that she went through in order to keep her children away from slavery; because of this, she is a reminder of all the suffering she went through as a slave.
The last two chapters, although they deal mostly with Sethe, Paul D, and Beloved, and less so with the