Abstract

While critics such as Orlando Patterson have defined slavery as anathema to kinship, this essay argues that kinship is often invested in violent claims of possession and ownership. Turning to Toni Morrison's Beloved, I contend that the novel's critical reception has tended to disavow this violence by framing Sethe's infanticidal act within an idealized conception of maternal love. Contrasting Sethe with the historical figure of Margaret Garner—the mulata fugitive slave upon whom Morrison loosely based her novel—I ask why racial mixture is both ubiquitous in Beloved yet absent from Sethe's family lineage, and conclude that this exclusion of miscegenation works to redouble the novel's already idealized conception of maternal love.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-658X
Print ISSN
0026-7724
Pages
pp. 548-569
Launched on MUSE
2006-10-04
Open Access
No
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