To Remember or Not To Remember: Questioning Trauma of Slavery in Beloved

Shahram R. Sistani


Why do characters are not willing to remember the past? Do their quest for self-definition is prompted by different needs? To what extent the relationship of the individual to their communities matters and has an impact on their process of remembering? Almost there is no doubt in the role of history in establishing a better present or future. That’s why the master ideologies have historically distorted the reality and belittling the black culture. This paper seeks to examine how In Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987) some characters are driven by a dire desire to free themselves from the painful memory of slavery and in contrast to them some others find respites and their quest for the self in coming to term with the past. The first part of the title of this study i.e. “To Remember or not to Remember” refers to the question of remembering or not to remembering and if it’s necessary in characters’ attempt for self-definition. For the reason that Morrison believes, “There is a necessary for remembering the horror, but of course there’s a necessity for remembering it in a manner in which it can be digested,  in a manner in which the memory is not destructive” (Marsha Darling 1994, 247-48). The second part that is “Questioning of Trauma of Slavery” of the title addresses the attempts of seminal characters to redeem the slavery situation by reaching to the subjectivity or coming to terms with pre-destined condition thereby making earnest attempts to discover new opportunities and alternative ways of questioning the trauma of slavery.  This study attempts to provide an Althusserian - Lacanian reading of the quest of subjectivity and to conclude that resolving the trauma of the past helps characters to free their psyches from the entanglement of slavery and be able to construct a better relationship with the structure.



Trauma of the past, ideology, structure, memory

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