You are on page 1of 3


Layla Ziani

Mrs. Balka

My fav class

Beloved In Class Essay Prompt 2

After American soldiers came back from Viet Nam in 1973, their lives were changed for

better or worse, mostly for the worst. After coming home, many families saw a drastic change in

control, personality, and individuality from their deployed sons. As more and more physicians

and psychologists started treating these young men, almost all of them believed that the reason

why they were not reclaiming their manhood and independence was because the traumatizing

experiences they went through in Indochina. In order to reclaim the liberty they had lost while

overseas, psychologists as well as life coaches recommended that these men make peace with the

past. As more and more men made peace with their past experiences, the more and more they

began to regain control in their lives. However, devastating effects like this did not just happen

during the Vietnam war but in order to bring light to the idea of making peace with the past in

order to regain control in one’s life, author Toni Morrison uses the character of Paul D as a

vehicle to strengthen the idea that confronting one’s experiences and making peace with the past

will allow one to truly achieve physical and emotional freedom.

In order to strengthen Morrison's purpose that in order to truly achieve liberty and

independence from oppression, one must acknowledge the past in addition to making peace with

it, Morrison uses the character of Paul D as a vehicle for that message. After being set free from

slavery, Paul D began to suppress his memories of “the taste of iron,” Sethe, Sixo, “the sight of

butter,” and “the smell of hickory” all into a “tobacco tin lodged” in his chest. To Paul D, this

metaphorical box acts as the place in which he locks away all his memories from slave life in

hopes of not coming in contact with them ever again. Throughout his life as a free man, Paul

makes sure that this box will stay “rusted shut.” In the eyes of many, pushing away past abuses

may seem logical, but through the metaphor of having a tin box in the heart actually does the

opposite when trying to attain freedom. Without even realizing it, Paul D was indirectly

bringing back memories of the injustices he experienced during slavery because the metaphor of

the tin box of memories is synonymous with the prison box Paul D was kept in when prisoner.

Being kept prisoner in an underground box was one of the lowest points in Paul D’s life, through

being physically abused to experiencing sexual assault, Paul D decides to use the prison box

where he was kept prisoner as a metaphorical place where he stashes all his memories. Through

doing this, Paul D is not reclaiming his individuality and letting the past go, although he is

physically free, he has never abandoned the idea of being a prisoner because he is keeping all his

memories locked up in his prison box. Keeping memories stashed away in a metaphorical box

of shame does not do any good psychologically. As we can see from Beloved’s return to the

physical world, Paul D begins to lose control of himself and his surroundings; Beloved begins to

“[move] him.” As Beloved returns, Paul D is unable to sleep or sit in any room of 124 except

“the cold room “ without feeling suppressed or uncomfortable. On the superficial level, Beloved

is Sethe’s dead daughter that has come back to life, however, diving deeper into her character,

Beloved is the symbolic personification of slavery. Looking at Paul D through a different lense,

one can understand that slavery is indirectly still affecting him and controlling his emotional and

mental stability, Beloved being the symbol or representation of slavery that is moving him

physically around 124 from room to room. However, after being controlled by slavery for a few

weeks, Beloved pleads him to “touch [her] on the inside part” and “call [her, her] name.” As

Beloved does this, Paul D begs Beloved to “go away” and “go back to bed,” but she doesn’t. In

the end, Paul D and Beloved end up having a mystical sexual experience where Paul D is finally

able to let go of his past and live in the future. The symbolic personification of Beloved of

slavery in this moment is extremely important because although it is short, it gives a flash of

insight into the intimate feelings that Paul D has been repressing and finally lets go. When

Beloved begs Paul D to acknowledge her, this moment is a symbolic representation of how Paul

D has neglected his past and not taken ownership of his experiences. But, when Paul D finally

accepts Beloved, this moment represents him finally making peace with his past and taking

ownership of it. As the story transitions, readers see how after this experience with Beloved

(who in reality is a symbol of slavery), Paul D has let his past experiences flourish and has

regained control of his life. Instead of slavery moving him, he starts moving himself, even going

as far as to confront Sethe about his brief affair with Beloved. The metaphorical “tin box” is no

longer in his heart and he can now live peacefully in the future instead of the past, Paul D broke

the chains that bind him to slavery.

In conclusion, author Toni Morrison uses the character of Paul D as a vehicle to

strengthen the idea that confronting one’s experiences and making peace with the past will allow

one to truly achieve physical and emotional freedom.