"The future was sunset; the past something to leave behind. And if it didn't stay behind, well, you might have to stomp it out." -Toni Morrison, Beloved (270).
In Toni Morrison's novel, Beloved, we learn how hurtful memories and the past can be. The past is not always what it is made out to be. Morrison says that facing the past is a very hard thing to do, but over time we will learn to accept it and overcome our fear of it. The main characters are shaped by their past. Over the course of the novel, facing the past is shown through Morrison's thorough development of the characters. .
Toni Morrison develops each character by putting together pieces of their past to form who they are. We learn in the very beginning of the novel that Sethe, our main character who is broken because of her murder of her third child and the repetitive aching memories of her slave years at Sweet Home. Because of her hurtful past, she tries to shelter others from it their pasts. Sethe tries to shelter Denver from the past, and we recognize this when the narrator says, "As for Denver, the job Sethe had of keeping her from the past that was still waiting for her was all that mattered" (45). In this quote, the reader understands that Sethe believes the past is waiting for her, and she is consumed by it. Sethe is swallowed .
by memories and doesn't ever think of letting her past go. Morrison writes, "But her brain was not interested in the future. Loaded with the past and hungry for more, it left her no room to imagine, let alone plan for, the next day" (74). Over the course of the novel, she realizes that the past is painful, but it shapes who she is. .
On the other hand, Denver is developed by Morrison as being a character who wants a past and a history. Her past is based on being shunned. She has to face her past by interacting with society and to break free of it. Breaking free is the only way she can achieve her desires of a past.