Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.
Morrison enhances the world of Beloved by investing it with a supernatural dimension. While it is possible to interpret the book’s paranormal phenomena within a realist framework, many events in the novel—most notably, the presence of a ghost—push the limits of ordinary understanding. Moreover, the characters in Beloved do not hesitate to believe in the supernatural status of these events. For them, poltergeists, premonitions, and hallucinations are ways of understanding the significance of the world around them. Such occurrences stand in marked contrast to schoolteacher’s perverse hyper-“scientific” and empirical studies.
Beloved’s epigraph, taken from Romans 9:25, bespeaks the presence that Christian ideas will have in the novel. The “four horsemen” who come for Sethe reference the description of the Apocalypse found in the Book of Revelations. Beloved is reborn into Sethe’s world drenched in a sort of baptismal water. As an infant, Denver drinks her sister’s blood along with her mother’s breast milk, which can be interpreted as an act of Communion that links Denver and Beloved and that highlights the sacrificial aspect of the baby’s death. Sethe’s act so horrifies schoolteacher that he leaves without taking her other children, allowing them to live in freedom. The baby’s sacrificial death, like that of Christ, brings salvation. The book’s larger discussions of sin, sacrifice, redemption, forgiveness, love, and resurrection similarly resound with biblical references.