The effects of stress on a person’s life can be calamitous. It affects every part of a person’s body and makes them feel useless and alone. In essence, some stress every now and then in our lives is good, but an overwhelming amount of stress can be devastating. An example of overwhelming stress is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD. This disorder occurs when someone is exposed to horrific events in their life causing them severe and ongoing emotional damage due to the extreme psychological trauma. In her novel Beloved, Toni Morrison describes the brutal effects of slavery.
The novel follows the story of Sethe and her daughter Denver, as they try to rebuild their lives after they escaped from slavery. After reading the novel Beloved, one is led to believe that Sethe had PTSD because of the symptoms she showed. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a real illness.
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It happens when someone undergoes a traumatizing event like slavery, torture, war, rape and much more. Since people have differing levels of stress tolerance, one might get PTSD, while another may not, after experiencing the same event.
We do not fully understand what causes PTSD, but we do know that psychological, genetic, physical, and social factors are involved. It causes the body to react differently to stress, by changing the stress hormones. It is believed that humans are sometimes incapable of handling vast amounts of stress, so they establish PTSD. John Schreiber states, Little thought is given to the subconscious by the vast majority of individuals on this planet. It simply does what it is supposed to do. But the reptile portion of our minds has a huge logic error in its design.
Nature knows about this error but, rather than fix it permanently, it adds a mechanism to account for this error. When the subconscious detects that the error condition exists, it triggers this mechanism. This mechanism changes the way the brain functions, and the symptoms that result have become known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Schreiber describes that we do not yet have a permanent fix for high stress levels; we have a release for some of the stress through PTSD. Studies have shown that most people will encounter something traumatic in their lifetime, but only abut 8% of those people actually get full Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder)
There are many signs and symptoms victims of PTSD portray, both mentally and physically. Throughout the novel, Sethe has flashbacks of her days as a slave. According to Doctor Roxanne Dryden-Edwards one symptom of this disorder is, “re-experiencing of the trauma. For example, troublesome memories, flashbacks that are usually caused by reminders of the traumatic events, recurring nightmares about the trauma and/or dissociative reliving of the trauma. ” (Medicine Net) Sethe has flashbacks of herself in the barn with Schoolteacher and his two sons.
Sethe repeatedly states, “and them boys took my milk. ” (Beloved) Schoolteacher’s sons milk Sethe and steal all her milk, during the time she just given birth to Denver. Another flashback Sethe constantly relives in the novel is the death of her daughter, Beloved. Sethe’s disorder is so severe that she is the one who ends up killing Beloved. She runs away from Sweet Home to escape slavery, but eventually Schoolteacher finds her at Baby Suggs house. When seeing Schoolteacher in the distance, Sethe grabs all her children and takes them into the shed.
She wants to kill all four of her kids, so they do not go through slavery like she did. Using a saw, she cuts all four children’s necks. The only child that does not live through it is Beloved. Her trauma from slavery was so harsh that she would have rather killed her own children rather than seeing them recaptured as slaves at Sweet Home. Both Sethe and Denver see Beloved reincarnated at the age she would have been in if she had not been killed earlier. I believe that they both were imagining that Beloved was their because of the trauma they had been through.
Towards the end of the book, Sethe becomes depleted and even sacrifices her own need for eating, so Beloved can continue eating. Eventually, it seems like Sethe has given up on life. Doctor Melinda Smith believes that one symptom of PTSD is feeling emotionally numb. She states, “That victims often avoid activities, places, thoughts, or feelings that remind them of the trauma. Also, they lose interest in activities and life in general and feel detached from others. ” (Help Guide) At the conclusion of the novel, Sethe is completely worn out because Beloved consumes her spirit slowly.
Another symptom of PTSD is not being capable t let go of the past. Sethe has a hard time letting go of what happened. Sparknotes. com states, Even after she acknowledges Beloved’s identity, Sethe shows herself to be still enslaved by the past, because she quickly succumbs to Beloved’s demands and allows herself to be consumed by Beloved. Only when Sethe learns to confront the past head-on, to assert herself in its presence, can she extricate herself from its oppressive power and begin to live freely, peacefully, and responsibly in the present. Once Sethe irrevocably faces her problems head-on, Beloved spirit dies and disappears forever.
In the novel, Beloved, the main character Sethe, shows many signs and symptoms of a person who might be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Sethe got PTSD from going through tragic events in her life, causing her to have extreme psychological trauma. Morrison’s novel, Beloved, transmits the story of Sethe and her daughter Denver. They are trying to build a new life for themselves after having escaped slavery, but can not because of Sethe’s incapability to let go of her past. Once Sethe finally confronts her past, her pain is lifted and she at last feels liberated.