The Loss of Identity Through Abuse in Toni Morrison’s Beloved.

  • Emma Wood


Whilst it is estimated that domestic violence can occur in one quarter of all marriages,[1] it can vary in form, perpetrator, and victim. This form of abuse is often wrongly perceived as purely violence from a man directed towards a woman, often his wife, or as any behaviour by a parent that results in injury to a child.[2] This is also the case in literature, including Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Often not the primary focus of novels, and not always occurring in the stereotypical sense of physical violence between man and woman, it often goes unnoticed or misunderstood, despite being vitally important to the plot of the texts. There is often a change in self that the characters undergo that is caused by the domestic oppression that they are battling. Throughout the course of the abuse, whether mental or physical, the oppressed loses sight of themselves and their true identity. Victims often change to resemble a person that the perpetrator wishes for them to become, just as Sethe’s identity is altered by Beloved. Only when the oppression is defeated, whether that be by fight or flight, can the victim’s identity be reclaimed. The exploration of the patterns of Beloved’s abuse of Sethe, in comparison to those of real domestic abuse reveals, shows how Sethe loses her identity.


[1] Olivia Salcido, ‘Immigrant Women and Domestic Violence: Common Experiences in Different Countries’, Gender and Society, 16.6 (2002), 898 – 920 <> [31/10/17] (p. 899).

[2] James Garbarino, Understanding Abusive Families, (Lexington: D C Heath, 1980), p. 5.

How to Cite
WOOD, Emma. The Loss of Identity Through Abuse in Toni Morrison’s Beloved.. Literary Cultures, [S.l.], v. 1, n. 1, mar. 2018. ISSN 2516-3310. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 08 feb. 2023.