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The main theme of Beloved is that a person must confront the past in order to heal the wounds it has caused. The main characters and all the members of the black community in Cincinnati are haunted by the traumas of slavery and racism. Throughout the novel, the characters work hard to avoid the past because it is filled with pain and horror for them. Sethe, in particular, shows the tendency to repress the past; but until she faces it, she cannot enjoy the future.
An important minor theme of Beloved is the necessity of a person claiming freedom. When the whites announced that the slaves were free, it was only a first step in their freedom. It was up to them to act like free people. Because they had never previously experienced being free, the ex-slaves often had difficulties. They had to diligently work to find ways to express their freedom. During the course of the novel, the struggles of the ex-slaves are presented in a variety of ways.
Baby Suggs, in her preaching, taught the freed blacks to value their self-worth. Stamp Paid and others help the freed slaves to escape to and settle down in their freedom. The black community at large tried to help each other heal from the wounds of slavery.
The key mood of Beloved is tragic, but the novel is varied enough to include a range of emotions, including hope and joy.