Friday, March 22, 2013

Water as a Metaphor for Transition

When Paul D is trapped in the "chain gang" with the other 45 men, his escape is the product of heavy rains. Morrison writes, "It rained" (Morrison 129). There cages had a mud floor and with the heavy downpour and ensuing erosion of the mud bottom, the slaves were able to escape to freedom. Paul D is able to start a new chapter in his life. When Sethe crosses the river with Stamp Paid, she begins a new part of her life. In both instances Morrison uses water as a metaphor for transition. Whether it is a river carrying someone across to the other side or water "carrying" someone under a jail cell, it allows for a type of transitioning to a new life and freedom. Paul D is able to go north with the help of the Cherokee Indians and Sethe is able to find 124 Bluestone Road.


Madeline Davis said...

I agree, and I think this heavily relates to the traditional symbol of water as baptism and cleansing. The crossing of water both in the mud with the chain gang and the Ohio river allowed for Paul D and Sethe to rid themselves of their old lives of torturous slavery into new lives of freedom and choices. The transitions through water cleansed them of their pasts and left them with only memories of their brutal experiences.

wkuehne said...

I agree with both your comments. Water is also a symbol for birth in a literal way, as Beloved is described as walking from the water in both Morrison's Foreword, and in Part I. Sethe's water also breaks when Beloved is born. The motif of water can also be traced to the beginning of slavery itself, with the Middle Passage. The coral reef that Ms. King shows us in class shows that water is reinforced as an accompanying motif with slavery to this day.

Tyler Dean said...

I also agree. Will makes a good point that Beloved's return involves her walking out of water. Water plays a huge role in the novel. It symbolizes rebirth and new life and it brings exactly that to the characters in the novel. Each instance of water, first the Middle Passage, then the crossing of the river with Stamp paid, and then Beloved's entrance into the world again from the lake represents a new stage in Sethe's life. Water acts as a altering force, giving the person a new, unique situation in life that presents its own obstacles and hardships.