Illusion vs. reality is again a prominent theme, this time in Toni Morrison’s novel, Beloved. Beloved herself is equivocal; the question throughout the whole book is questioning her reality. When she “returns” from the dead, she spins each of the character’s lives upside down, illuminating the concern that they might not be living in the present in her presence, but an illusion. Beloved causes Sethe and Paul D to revist their pasts and even sucks Sethe in so far that it seems as though she has left reality completely to be with her dead daughter. Beloved brings her back to a time when she was free, with all her children alive and with her. However, the reality is that only Denver really remains, and that Sethe is a slave to what once was with Beloved locking the chains on her life.
To Denver, Beloved is the friend and sister she always wanted. However, Denver’s issue is whether or not Beloved’s friendship and love is reality or illusion. Beloved informs Denver multiple times that she is only there for Sethe, but Denver either doesn’t understand or chooses to ignore it as she continues to trail Beloved, constantly seeking her approval. Therefore, Denver is also a slave to Beloved’s illusion. However, unlike Sethe, Denver escapes her clutches and teaches herself how to move on and become independent without letting either Beloved or her mother’s rocky reputation and past define her. Thus, by the end of the novel, Denver discovers the true reality.