Thru the setting, the year when the story happened represents the period of African American slavery. With the main characters, wherein they are described as Black people, the book also emphasizes the kind of race that is enslaved. Also with the main characters, wherein they were ostracized by their community denotes that there are norms of the society that should be followed. The haunting memories of the past embody the imprisonment of a person to move on with the present and work towards the future. The concept of a ghost also emphasizes the entrapment in the past, wanting to relive the past and wanting to change it.
As Nellie McKay analyzed, the story is "set in 1873, a decade after the Emancipation Proclamation that ended slavery." McKay also revealed that this book was based on the story of an enslaved Margaret Garner, thus, highlighting the representation of slavery. This period African American slavery uncovers a notion that an African American race meant a slave.
Captivity is inferred in the characters' status in their society wherein Sethe and Denver could not lift their status, and they think low of their selves because they are ostracized by the community. This was proven in page 210 where Seth said, "All of it is now... it is always now...there will never be a time when I am not crouching and watching others who are crouching too. I am always crouching."
The message of captivity to a life of continuous tests and trials and following the norms of the society was also represented in this book. It was on page 256 that says, "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. Slave life; freed life-every day was a test and a trial. Nothing could be counted on in a world where even when you were a solution you were a problem."
The conversations about the recurring memories of the past embody captivity, particularly Sethe being stuck to her memory of the past and could not move on. This was shown on page 36 when Sethe conversed with Denver and said, "It's so hard for me to believe in time. Some things go. Pass on. Some things just stay. I used to think it was my rememory... But it's not. Places, places are still there. If a house burns down, it's gone, but the place-the picture of it-stays, and not just in my rememory, but out there, in the world." And Denver replied, "If it's still there, waiting, that must mean that nothing ever dies." With Sethe responding, "Nothing ever does."
Sethe emphasizes her captivity when she holds on to the memory of her dead daughter. She is stuck at this memory, and could not change what had happened despite wanting to. On page 217 where Sethe said, "You are my Beloved. You are mine. You are mine. You are mine," this was revealed.
Certain philosophies were also indicators of captivity. The actions and decisions of characters were confined and dependent on their principles. As when Sethe explained to Paul D that she was "trying to put my babies where they would be safe;" her action of killing her children was based on what her conviction. Other philosophies which were basis of the characters' actions and decisions were evident in page 95, "Freeing yourself is one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another;" also from page 164 when