Baby suggs: The holy ope Essay

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In addition to Sethe and her mother, and eventually Denver, there is Baby Suggs, holy, who demonstrates survival at all costs through her mothering capacities. Due to the selling of human beings during the time of slavery in the United States, mothers who were slaves were often unable to actually mother their own children for any length of time. Although this is not the exact case with Sethes mother, or even Sethe, it is true of Baby Suggs.

Through Baby Suggs and the other slave women, Morrison delineates the dilemma of slave mothers caught in the web of a cultural and economic system that sought to denature human feelings and sever family ties (Fultz 36). In other words, since the enslaved woman is being denied the right of being a mother to her own children, so is Morrisons character choosing to waive this right in order to assert strength and claim her humanity. By rejecting motherhood, she rejects the assumption that because she is doomed to be a mother, so is she born to serve his master.

Halle, Baby Suggss youngest son, is the only child of eight she really has the opportunity to see grow up. Halle, in turn, buys her out of slavery, and ironically, never sees her again. Thus, Baby Suggss mothering of her own eight is almost nonexistent. She tells Sethe, Every one of them gone away from me. Four taken, four chased¦ My first born. All I can remember of her is how she loved the burned bottom of bread. Can you beat that? Eight children and thats all I remember (Beloved 5). However, Baby Suggs mothers more than her own.

One might even suggest that her biological motherhood does not allow her to aid the survival of her offspring because she is neither empowered by that mothering nor permitted to do it. Her children are taken away from her, sold. She does not mother them; she is not given the opportunity to do so. In addition, she is not permitted to love them and mother them the way she would like to in the time she does have with them, because they are not free. Perhaps her most important mothering, and the survival skills she teaches, occur once she has been freed.

As a free woman, she is able to give caring and love and advice to people who actually have the choice whether or not to take it, as they, too, are free. Harris notes that Baby Suggs becomes hope-bringer and visionary (174) as an unofficial preacher to the children, the grown men, the women, mothering them all by teaching them to love themselves because even as free blacks, they are not loved by white people. Baby Suggs is empowered here by the faith all the people in the Clearing have in her. They believe her, listen to her, take her at her word, and thus begin to learn to love themselves.

Consequently, they learn emotional survival skills as a defense against the white, racist world in which they live. Baby Suggs has more of a mothering capacity as a free woman, more potential to do good in her world, more ability to love and care that much, all of which gives her the power to effect change for the future (Beloved 45). Her people listen to her and will love themselves and will be different from their slave selves or their parents slave selves. Thus, Baby Suggs has atypically created a power base for herself and her people, and become a source of spiritual survival.

Baby Suggs also mothers Sethe more than her own children, for Sethe brings the future with her when she escapes slavery and Sweet Home. She gets her children out and brings a newborn baby with her, her first and only child born out of slavery. When Sethe arrives at 124, Baby Suggs kissed her on the mouth (Beloved 92). Morrison makes a point of telling the reader on the mouth to demonstrate that the connection made here between Baby Suggs and Sethe is stronger than mere mother-in-law to daughter-in-law. Though not biologically mother and daughter, they will live as such for twenty-eight happy days.

Baby Suggs goes beyond her mother-in-law role here, and truly nurses Sethe back to comfort and health as a mother would. Her silent understanding and smart actions are also examples of motherlove and care, knowing when to ask questions and when to keep quiet and deal with the symptoms without pressing for the cause. This is the exact level of motherhood that Sethe craves when, She wished for Baby Suggs fingers molding her nape, reshaping it, saying, Lay em down, Sethe. Sword and shield. Down. Down' (Beloved 86).

As an othermother here, Baby Suggs does more than care for Sethes physical self. She cares for her mental and psychological self that cannot separate her present from her past, her rememory (Beloved 99). Baby Suggs is seen as a woman capable of doing that affects more than one entity, far more. In effect, Baby Suggss lifestyle creates a new and altered proverb: Care for someone, and shell be well that day. Teach her how to care for herself, and shell be well for a lifetime. Baby Suggs can do this and does for many. Morrison also defies the assumed natural bond between mother and child.

She claims that the black woman, put into the context of slavery, can choose to reject the alleged bond of motherhood. Knowing that her children would be taken away from her and sold, Baby Suggs made the decision to break the bond of motherhood. With a non-maternal attitude, Baby Suggs chooses to reject any emotional attachment to her newborn to avoid or maybe survive the tragedy of seeing her children taken away. Even with her only child that was left with her, she asserts that she was prepared for Halles death more than for his life.

This attitude that may apparently sound pessimistic reveals a certain force as Baby Suggs takes her destiny in her own hand. She attacks the biological, cultural and nurturing aspect of motherhood, the very elements used by the white race to justify slavery. In other words, since the enslaved woman is being denied the right of being a mother to her own children, so is Morrisons character choosing to waive this right in order to assert strength and claim her humanity. By rejecting motherhood, she rejects the assumption that because she is doomed to be a mother, so is she born to serve his master.

The assumed nurturing aspect of the slave woman is rejected by Baby Suggs to undermine the conception that presents the condition of the slave as natural. She rejects the theory that deprives the slave of the masculine traits of strength, rationality and common sense, exhibiting tremendous strength to resist attachment and the logic of refusing to care for children she will not be permitted to keep, thus increasing her masters profit at her own emotional expense. Perhaps Baby Suggs is better able to mother once Halle buys her out of slavery because she was unable to do so as a slave.

She does not even bother to examine her last child, to try to learn features she would never see change into adulthood anyway, and this one, Halle, is the one she was allowed to keep (Beloved 139). This is atypical mothering in the traditional sense as women stare at babies simply for enjoyment. This is not the case in slavery; not so for Baby Suggs. She is never given that luxury. But in not examining her last child, she is also not examining herself. The most important question here, is, of course, Could she have been a loving mother?

The readers know the answer to that question became we see her as a loving mother to other freed slaves, to her daughter-in-law and to her grandchildren. However, because she takes the time to ponder that question, one also knows that she did not always believe in herself or recognize her ability to affect the survival of herself and her off-spring. This even becomes evident in her renaming of herself. At Sweet Home, she is referred to as Jenny, and her bill of sale reads Jenny Whitlow. However, her husbands name was Suggs and he called her Baby so her freed name by which she identifies herself is Baby Suggs (Beloved 142).

Baby Suggs is a survivor, self-proclaimed, while Jenny Whitlow is a slave. As a result, she passed on her newfound spirit. This self-proclaimed Baby Suggs, holy, is not simply impressing survival skills on others due to her name, but due to her actions. Her preaching reaches out to people and gives them guidance, thus making her subject, not object. She is the center of the Word as Stamp Paid believes it (Beloved 177) and although Baby Suggs forgets the necessity of collective responsibility in celebrating her daughter-in-laws safe arrival out of slavery, her actions overall are characterized by selflessness (Mbalia 92).

Unlike the stereotyped black mammy, Baby Suggs has a spirit of her own. She makes choices such as renaming herself. By addressing slavery in its most negative aspects, Baby Suggs therefore undermines the image of the slave as consenting to his condition. She shows awareness of the condition of the slave and challenges certain tropes of identity such as naming within the system of slavery. As a result, Baby Suggs, holy, becomes more than a human being; she becomes an icon. All of the experiences Baby Suggs has endured finally beat her down, and Morrison tells us ”well, it could wear out even a Baby Suggs, holy (Beloved 177).

The use of the article a before Baby Suggs, holy, is what transforms her from human to icon, from freed ex-slave to mother, even grand mother, with power. As an icon of motherhood, she is needed by more than Sethe and her children; even the fact that she is Halles mother, which leads to the perpetuation of her family. Morrison defies here the assumed natural bond between mother and child. She claims that the black woman, put into the context of slavery, can choose to reject the alleged bond of motherhood.

Knowing that her children would be taken away from her and sold, Baby Suggs made the decision to break the bond of motherhood becomes secondary. She is needed by her entire community. She is mother to them all in the sense that her guidance is requested even after the tragedy occurs in her yard. Morrison attacks here a romanticized version that presents motherhood as a one-sided vision of a natural bond between a mother and a child. With a non-maternal attitude, Baby Suggs chooses to reject any emotional attachment to her newborn to avoid or maybe survive the tragedy of seeing her children taken away.

Even with her only child that was left with her, she asserts that she was prepared for Halles death more than for his life. This attitude that may apparently sound pessimistic reveals a certain strength as Baby Suggs takes her destiny in her own hand. She attacks the biological, cultural and nurturing aspect of motherhood, the very elements used by the white race to justify slavery. Yet a part of being this icon, in defining ones self on ones own terms, also means that one can have unanswerable questions that erode the self.

Yet Baby Suggs does question. Because she cannot approve or condemn Sethes rough choice she seeks out something harmless in this world (Beloved 180, 179): colors, colors that she has never before had the time on which to focus. Mitchell contends that Baby Suggs abandons all hope and takes to her bed to contemplate color, the very entity that has determined her life (100). She goes on to note, That slavery and its aftermath caused even Baby Suggs to quit suggests how pervasively pernicious is the institution (Mitchell 100).

In other words, since the enslaved woman is being denied the right of being a mother to her own children, so is Morrisons character choosing to waive this right in order to assert strength and claim her humanity. By rejecting motherhood, she rejects the assumption that because she is doomed to be a mother, so is she born to serve his master. The assumed nurturing aspect of the slave woman is rejected by Baby Suggs to undermine the conception that presents the condition of the slave as natural.

She rejects the theory that deprives the slave of the masculine traits of strength, rationality and common sense, exhibiting tremendous strength to resist attachment and the logic of refusing to care for children she will not be permitted to keep, thus increasing her masters profit at her own emotional expense. We see that, contrary to the popular black mammy, who is a static and predictable character, Morrison produces through Baby Suggs a counter discourse. Baby Suggs is a more developed character; she is unpredictable and alive. As a character, she grows and surprises the reader with her strength and resourcefulness.

From the stereotyped depiction of an old mammy, weakened and handicapped by her hip, unaware of what she looks like or who she really is, the characterization of Baby Suggs suddenly moves to a more lively persona, taking consciousness of her strength. The last battle she fought was against her own daughter-in-law, for the sake of her youngest grandchild. Baby Suggs loses and Denver drinks the blood of her sister with Sethes milk. Although she loses the battle over Denver when she is an infant, perhaps Baby Suggs wins the final battle over Denver, as Denver is the saving grace for Sethe at the end of the novel.

She can mend what Sethe broke for herself, for her children, and for Baby Suggs: the community. As saddened as Sethe is by the fact that Howard and Buglar left for fear of her, their mother, and tired by the baby ghost, they chose the safety of themselves over making their mother happy. In truth, this is what Sethe would want and has trained them to believe is the right action to take. This is not so different from their journey out of slavery. The analysis of the character of Baby Suggs offered here shows how a destereotyping of black motherhood can contribute to a destereotyping historiography of slavery.

From a site where it once symbolized the nurturing disposition of the slave towards her white masters, the black female body is displaced to a different location where it is able to destereotype the gendered and racial discourse used to justify slavery. As a symbol of the black female body, Baby Suggs addresses such issues as the passivity, the physicality and the irrationality of the female body, to destereotype fixed racial and gender identities, all of which facilitated the success of the slavery system.

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