Toni Morrison, in Beloved (1987), questions the very concept of freedom for the Negro community and demonstrates the various points where the meaning intersects and negates itself with ambiguous consequences. Nearly all the major characters face these consequences of a life that seems free yet, doesn’t really mean freedom. Her preoccupation with the Negro community and its predicament is visible all through the novel. Morrison has completely indulged herself in the issues, especially relating to freedom, of the Negro slaves. Her writings make a political impression on the reader. Even after the assumed freedom, the slaves do have a life of some kind of slavery, only that they do not have a white master. She discusses the immense torture, pain and struggle that the characters go through in their lives. The problem of the Negro race and the effects of slavery with its drastic inhumanity at the hands of the white masters, a denial of life to the Negroes who are reduced to nothing more than mere animals is what the novel depicts all through. This gruesome and immoral picture of the slaves being used and tormented and tortured is delineated by almost all the African-American writers.
In the following lines Morrison expresses her deepest concern for the slaves who in spite of the acquired freedom do not really possess it. Sethe runs away from the plantation but though free, Morrison questions, yet, is that freedom in the real sense? – “Bit by bit, at 124 and in the Clearing, along with the others, she had claimed herself. Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another.” (111-112). She is doomed with immense pain throughout her life though she settles with whatever she is left with. And all she is left with is a disturbed family, a ghost living with the inmates, and perpetual reminder of the past struggles and losses. Not only the protagonist, this issue of considered-freedom is bargained upon all the other characters as well. Through this Morrison draws our attention to the life situations of the slaves, their agonized past, discriminated and restless present, their acceptance of the insanity as a means of survival. For instance, Sethe decides to forget the past (though she cannot), Paul D’s determination of not loving anything too much, some of them running away even further like the boys, etc.
Morrison brings forth to her readers the life conditions of a subjugated lot that is affected by the inhuman and political reasons of a supposedly superior race which, with all its atavistic instincts, is adamant at ruining an entire race because of its skin colour. Freedom in the context of discussion is neither freedom, nor sanity. It is a life that a slave procures by running away, escaping. However, the newfound life does not permit these people to leverage normal living requirements like paid work, food and shelter easily. The historical memory of the coloured people, their hopes, desires, and expectations of a normal life is discussed by the novel. It presents a moral, physical, psychological and also spiritual havoc that forced itself on the slaves. Also even after all of this, the slaves further carry a great deal of guilt on their conscience. They find themselves responsible for certain devastation caused to them and to their families. Sethe, in the novel is guilty of the murder of her own daughter, though she is compelled to do that to secure freedom for the rest of her children. This devastation caused by the institution of slavery doesn’t let the slaves be free even after escaping from slavery. It constantly reminds them of the torture, pain, sin and sacrifice, and even more, their present distressing, harrowing and pitiful condition. They still face the discrimination in the society. Morrison reminds the readers of the post-slavery situation where the coloured people had to wait for their grocery outside the stores for the whites to take theirs first. Even the black community at large is under a perpetual fear of losing its own identity and so doesn’t really come out to help the individuals in problem. Morrison, explicitly described the inherent and camouflaged predicament of the slaves and their lives while in the oppressive system and in the post-slavery phase of their life. She has diligently questioned the concept of freedom and urges the readers to think of freedom as only considered-freedom.