The woodshed where the murder is committed can be

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The woodshed where the murder is committed can be interpreted as slavery’s “central trauma” (Bast 1076). The act gives Sethe equivocal agency to claim ownership of her children—a love “too thick” (193)—although she cannot at first verbalise her experience in the woodshed. Wyatt writes that Sethe “finds speech blocked … A gap remains at the heart of the story, which the omniscient narrator subsequently fills in” (476). At the same time, this act produces divergent responses in the community and the reader. When reading this specific passage in the novel, I could not avoid recalling a statement by Amram to Caleb, two characters in Moses, Man of the Mountain , a novel by Zora Neale Hurston. Amram tells Caleb, “[y]ou are up against a hard game when you got to die to beat it” (6). I think these words can be useful in the process of understanding the murder Sethe commits, since they evoke both a sense of complete powerlessness—you need to die to beat the system—and, at the same time, of agency, since to die is a way to become an active subject. These kinds of feelings were widely spread among slaves. When interviewed by Gloria Naylor, Morrison offered her own perspec- tive on the act: A woman loved something other than herself so much. She had placed all of the value of her life in something outside herself. That the woman who killed her children loved her children so much; they were the best part of her and she would not see them sullied. She would not see them hurt. (Naylor 207)
LIVING LANGUAGE, LIVING MEMORY 76 Sethe sees her children as her “best thing” (Morrison, Beloved 321). By “nourishing them, she nourishes herself” (Moglen 29). She transfers her own ego to an external individual, and she will not accept that her own “best things” must submit to the power of schoolteacher. This interpre- tation allows the reader to understand (at least partly) the murder. Sethe does not know any better; nobody ever taught her any better. Brought up without a mother, Sethe acts out her own concept of motherhood. At that time, in that place, Sethe acts emotionally and thinks that to take away the life of her “best things” is a better option than to allow Schoolteacher to take them all back to Sweet Home. Sethe’s love is “too thick” (193). In my opinion, it is possible to argue that Sethe’s ego is originally transferred to her children. The final return of the ego to the body coincides with the novel’s end. This movement, how- ever, demonstrates that Sethe has forgotten about her own self. It is only when Paul D eventually comes back to 124 Bluestone Road, telling her, “[y]ou your best thing, Sethe. You are” (322) that the circumstances change. Doubting Paul D’s words, Sethe answers, “Me? Me?” (322). Lost and confused, Sethe finally comprehends Paul D’s words, realizing that her own strength, not her children’s, has guided her all through life: it helped her to claim herself already once earlier when she reached Ohio and lived as a free woman for twenty-eight days before schoolteacher’s arrival. Conversely,

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