Family tends to be the main force in shaping a child, in molding them into the person they will grow up to be. But what happens when a family is disconnected and unloving? What happens when a mother kills her own daughter only for her two sons to run away? Sethe’s life is not one her children would ever really be able to relate to. She was a slave and they were able to escape, she tried to avoid love and they craved love, she was a killer and they were dead. In chapter three of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, the narrator explains, "To Sethe, the future was a matter of keeping the past at bay. The 'better life' she believed she and Denver were living was simply not that other one." This is also why she killed Beloved, to give her a better life and protect her from love and hurt. Denver too, has been protected from these humanistic feelings as she first heard of her sister’s murder from a boy at school. Now, I can’t say that I would ever be able to tell my daughter that I killed her sister, but Denver never seemed to learn about life itself. She has no friends and her relationship with her mother is not based on love and concern. Beloved, on the other hand, still acts as a baby. She is constantly in need of her mother’s love and attention. Neither of these girls are capable of leading a normal, independent life and the only common factor in their lives is that of their mother’s twisted protection.
In this novel, Sethe is a likeable character, but her ideas are perverse. In chapter 21 Denver says, "All the time, I'm afraid the thing that happened that made it all right for my mother to kill my sister could happen again. I don't know what it is, I don't know who it is, but maybe there is something else terrible enough to make her do it again. I need to know what that thing might be, but I don't want to. Whatever it is, it comes from outside this house, outside the yard, and it can come right on in the yard if it wants to. So I never leave this house and I watch over the yard, so it can't happen again and my mother won't have to kill me too.” She is genuinely scared that her mother might try and kill her. What kind of relationship is that? This fear of her mother’s protection pulls them apart and has shaped Denver into the woman she is today. Beloved, has not had a life to develop. She is a ghost of the dead child and has never had the chance to grow and develop any sort of relationships. What I find most interesting though is the ability these three have to overcome death and brokenness and come together and love. Chapter 22 shows us their connection through this quotation, "I am Beloved and she is mine. I see her take flowers away from leaves she puts them in a round basket the leaves are not for her she fills the basket she opens the grass I would help her but the clouds are in the way how can I say things that are pictures I am not separate from her there is no place where I stop her face is my own and I want to be there in the place where her face is and to be looking at it too a hot thing." These family members are able to conquer their hurt and become one family again. Death is powerful, but a family’s love has proven to be even more so.