A Feminist Outlook on Maternal vs.. Paternal Instincts In Beloved Since the beginning of time, the mother and child relationship has differed greatly from the father and child relationship. Though both parents love their child greatly, both parents dare not cross certain boundaries. The limitations of protection for a mother are far different from paternal limitations. In her novel, Beloved, Morrison introduces the subject of infanticide, and explores the differences in justification between men and women. The following will discuss the limitations of parental protection.
It will explore the contrast of ideals between male and female parenting In relation to Beloved. The novel Beloved tells a story of a young woman who has escaped her plantation, “Sweet Home” to save herself and her children. Seethe, an ex-slave, sent her three children to Ohio through the Underground Railroad. Later she made her way there with her newborn child. After 28 days of freedom, her former slave owner, Schoolteacher, along with the sheriff, came to recapture her. To prevent her children from living in the same “hell” she went through, she did the only thing she felt would save them.
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She killed her older daughter, Beloved, and attempted to kill her two sons. As she began to kill her younger daughter, Denver, she was stopped by Stamp Paid, a former slave and friend. This horror prevented the slave owner from recapturing Seethe and her children. For 18 years, she lived with the guilt of killing Beloved and received the “haunt” of her daughter’s disapproval. Seethe was married, before her escape, to a fellow slave named Hale. Unfortunately, she had not seen her husband since her escape, and assumed he was dead.
Whale’s best friend, Paul D, had also not been seen since the escape. Suddenly, after 18 years of absence, he appeared at Settee’s front door. Immediately they began to rekindle memories of life at Sweet Home, and the horrible night of escape. Yearning for affection, Seethe and Paul D became instant companions. Paul D moved in with Seethe and they became a family. One day, Paul D announced that he and Seethe had decided to have a baby. He was relieved that he had finally settled down with a woman he had wanted for years. He came across his friend Stamp Paid and told him the good news. Unfortunately, Stamp Paid was not thrilled. He pulled out a newspaper clipping that told the story of Settee’s past. Seethe had been Jailed for killing one child and attempting to kill her other children. In total disbelief, Paul D approached Seethe to find out If the clipping was true. It was then that she began to discuss her reasons for killing her child. Paul D disapproved of Settee’s reasons and left her. Settee’s proposed protection could have greatly been contributed to “maternal Instinct”. This prompted her to do what she felt was best for her child.
According to Lowell General Hospital, maternal Instinct Is defined as” something beyond the archiving duty that produces responsiveness” For years it has been brought into question whether men are less perceptive parents than women. In addition, the I OFF mother has the opportunity to bond with the child well before the father. Through the child’s movement while in the womb, the mother begins to realize that someone is living through her. She also realizes that the child’s only route of survival is through her. The mother is aware of the child’s dependency and this carries over well into the child’s life.
It is for this reason that at the time of birth, the father may eel left out. He has not had the opportunity to experience what the mother and child have already developed. Whether or not maternal instinct is natural or learned, the mother has ample time to develop this attachment to her child. It is the natural instinct of a parent to save the life of their child. Regardless of whether you are a mother or a father, the welfare of your child is non-negotiable. However, with maternal instinct come several factors. A mother has a special loyalty to her child. As previously stated, she has an attachment to the child since the womb.
For a father, the loyalty to the child’s welfare has proven to be different. Generally, a father will not hold the same magnitude of nurturing for the child as a mother. For instance, if a couple has separated, a mother is more likely to fight for custody of the child than the father is. Many fathers are content with allowing the mother custody. This displays separation between a mother and child versus a father and child. In Beloved, Paul D confronts Seethe about the article written in the newspaper. The article has a picture of Seethe being taken to Jail. Seethe then begins to explain her seasons for trying to kill her children.
The following is an excerpt from the movie. In this scene, Paul D confronts Seethe. Paul D: Your love is too big Seethe. Seethe: Love is or it isn’t Paul D, thin love anti no love at all. I stopped him. I put my baby’s where they’d be safe. Paul D: It didn’t work thought Seethe: They anti in “Sweet Home”. Schoolteacher anti got me’. Paul D: There is worse. Seethe: It anti my Job to know what’s worse. My Job is to know when there is danger and keep my children away from it, cause I’d rather know there in peace I heaven then living hell here on earth, so help me Jesus. Paul D: There could have been another yahoo got two feet Seethe, not four. Beloved) Paul D is not able to sympathize with Settee’s decision to kill her children as a form of have found another method for saving her children. Seethe, on the other hand, felt that this was the only thing she could do to save her children. “Love is or it intonation love anti love at all” shows that she knew that love required heavy sacrifices. She felt that heaven was a better place for her children. Therefore, it was her duty to “release them all to the only safety a former slave can trust, death itself “. Book of the Month Club) While discussing the subject with peers, I found that several women agreed with Settee’s decision.
Though no one stated that they would do they same, the women felt that her decision for saving her children was Justifiable. “It is our Job to protect our children no matter what”, one woman stated. Men on the other hand felt that her actions were “careless and cruel”. Michael Dooley of the University of Missouri at Kansas City stated: Infanticide is a great disadvantage to the child being murdered who has lost all potential for life, the mother who will be affected greatly by the ruder through resentment and guilt, and to the children still living who have to deal with a mother who is also a murderer. University of Missouri at Kansas City) Even Bolder, a Junior at Morgan State, stated: ” If they were my children, I would have gone back to the plantation and fought to escape again. The slave owner wouldn’t have taken my children would have to take me first”. Unfortunately what this student failed to realize is that taking “me first” would have left the children there to suffer. Without the parents there to protect them, the children would be the sole reporter of the slave owners, and therefore would not escape the cruelty their parents faced.
At the same token, by killing them, the children do not have a chance to live at all. Many feminist and male critics have condemned Morrison work stating that it implied that all slave women killed their children in order to prevent them from going through slavery. It is true that the case of Seethe is a rare occurrence. Nevertheless, the movie and book also show the desperation of slaves during the time of slavery. In the bolo, Settee’s mother was also faced with a similar session. It shows the difficult decisions slaves were forced to make.
In the case of Seethe, it is hard to determine what should be done since no one today has lived through those circumstances. It is evident that what Seethe did was out of pure love and care for her children. We must try to understand her situation in order to understand Settee’s actions. Of course taking a life is not Justified, but saving the life of your child at the cost of murder remains to be determined. Especially when these actions preceded by the maternal instinct for a child’s safety.