Read below our complete notes on the novel “Beloved” by Toni Morrison. Our notes cover Beloved summary, themes, characters, and analysis.
Chloe Anthony Wofford, aka Toni Morrison (1931-2019), was an African American writer and a Nobel laureate. Her first novel was The Bluest Eye, which was published in 1970. She worked as a teacher as well as a fiction editor at a famous publishing house. Before writing this novel, she left her job there and sensed a feeling of freedom, which she wanted to express in her novel, and thus it came in the form of Beloved.
Beloved was an attempt to make the world feel what freedom meant for black people back then when there was slavery, and now when still there is segregation, though not explicit. It was written in Albany, NY, and published in 1987. It is a portrayal of slave women who were treated as birth-giving machines and produced as many slaves as they could. There were no families, and whites used them like animals. It is the reenacting of the “civilized” life of white slave owners.
She started working on this novel in the early 1980s but gave it full-time attention when she left her job. The inspiration behind the story was a newspaper clipping regarding a slave woman’s story of escape in 1856. This story inspired Toni to write the novel. Her name was Margaret Garner, and she was born a slave. She escaped with her husband and children because she didn’t want her children to live life like them in chains.
They escaped to Cincinnati and secured a place in a safe house. They were chased by their master (slave owner) and tried to capture them. She slit her two-year-old daughter’s throat and wounded her other children. She was captured later. This was an audacious attempt to rebel against slavery.
It tells of the conditions of black women in American society and the Fugitive Slave Act, which gave slave owners the right to chase slaves. It gave them the right to get back their fugitive slaves who had fled from south to north. Thus slaves were reclaimed this way, and new horrible stories of cruelties were created. Women were raped, men and children were starved, and civilized American society prospered.
If American history is studied, the secret behind its prosperity is innocent people’s blood, whether it is that of native Americans or black slaves. And still, it continues, though tools and forms of exploitation have changed.
Toni wrote this story as a tribute to those whose blood has been shed, but nobody remembers them. It is a work of fiction and an assurance to black people that their miseries can never be forgotten. Some critics have criticized it for its dedication, which is ‘Sixty million and more,’ and they think it as a comparison between Jews killed in Holocaust and African Americans who perished in slavery. But a simple which is worthy of being asked that weren’t African Americans humans or Jews something more human?
Beloved earned much fame and won several prizes; one of them is the Pulitzer Prize. It is considered one of the best novels written after the second world war. It was a unique attempt to write about black women and their rights. Toni was given the Nobel Prize in 1993 for her black women’s writings. She taught at different universities and died in 2019.
This novel is divided into three parts, and inside these sections, there is no clear division based on title or chapter number, rather page break divides the chapters.
A child’s soul haunts 124 Bluestone Road; her throat was slit by her own mother. It is Cincinnati, and Sethe lives with her ten years old daughter, Denver, here. She is a former slave, and her sons have fled. On the tombstone of the child, ‘Beloved’ is engraved. For this engraving, she didn’t have money and had to fulfill the physical desires of the engraver.
She comes to wash her feet at a pump in a chamomile field. This evokes in her mind memories of her days in slavery and fellow slaves. Paul D, a fellow slave at ‘Sweet Home,’ a plantation, arrives there and meets her after 18 years. She tells Paul of the cruelties of their supervisor then, and he embraces her at the retelling of the horrible past.
Paul D had always desired her and wanted her to be his wife. He is happy at his luck to find her. They grow intimate in a little while, and Paul fulfills his physical desires from her. After that, they feel shy, and she mildly regrets having him allowed to do this. She thinks that all men are the same and try to reach their ends through any possible means. He has revived some bad memories back in her life that she wanted to forget. Then she remembers her husband and his mother. Her mother in law, Baby Suggs, had six husbands. From them, she had eight children, but all were taken away except Halle, her husband.
Denver remembers the time when she came back home, and a ghost was there to welcome her. This leads to the recollection of the story of her birth, which was told to her. Her mother worked on the plantation and got pregnant with her. She fled and was found by a good woman named Amy Denver, half dead. She rescued her and helped her deliver the child who was named Denver.
She then remembers the story told about the pink tombstone and red blood of the child, which her mother related to the ghost. Sethe remembers Mrs. Garner’s brother-in-law, who came there after her husband’s death and did oversee them. Paul D stays there and asks if Denver has any problem, but Sethe tells her that she lives a charmed life and would be fine.
Denver asks Paul D about his stay that how much time he will spend with them. Sethe reprimands her over this question and asks her never to ask it again. Paul asks her if she asks this question from every man who comes there to stay, which angers Sethe. He asks her not to love her daughter that much because she is a former slave. Then they go to the carnival together, holding each other’s hands. Sethe thinks this as a good sign. Denver is happy with the attention she receives. This instance is a single instance of their normal family life.
A woman arrives at 124 and stays there for a night. When Sethe, Denver, and Paul arrive, she stands up and asks them for water. Sethe, at the sight of her, feels the need to water as she had felt when she was delivering Denver. They take the woman home, and she sleeps for four days. She only asks for water and is ill. When asked about her name, she tells them it is ‘Beloved.’
Denver stays with her day and night and takes care of her. Paul thinks there is something strange with her and she is pretending to be ill. He and Denver have seen her lift chair with one hand. Her appearance seems funny to Paul.
Beloved is attracted to Sethe, and she asks her about her diamonds. She remembers the diamonds that Mrs. Garner gave her at her marriage. She feels amazed because she wants to tell Beloved a story that she had decided to keep a secret. Then she tells her about her mother, who was hanged and the fact that she was her mother’s only child and named after her father. Denver is not interested because there is nothing about her in this story. A strange question that is raised in Sethe’s mind is that how Beloved came to know about that story.
Paul D questions Beloved incessantly about how she came here and who she is, which she is unable to tell. He wonders how Sethe and Denver have come to accept her this way. Beloved likes to ask questions, but she doesn’t want to be questioned. Paul D wants her to be taken out of this place and be kept somewhere else. Then Denver comes to her rescue and takes her away to her room.
Sethe and Paul discuss her husband, Halle, who has left her. Paul tells her that he was aggravated by the incident that took place in the barn, and this made him leave the barn forever. She tells him that he should have come to her rescue, which Paul responds by saying that he couldn’t. The last time Paul saw him, he had his face buttered, and he was in a miserable state.
Beloved and Denver dance in Denver’s room, Denver asks her about the place from where she came. She tells her that it was a dark and closed place in which there were many people, some of them were dead. She tells her that she came there to see Sethe. Then Denver asks her to stay there, and she agrees.
Then she asks Denver to tell her about the story of her delivery, and she relates of her birth in the boat and Amy Denver, who helped Sethe deliver her. She also tells her that she was almost dead at the time of delivery, but it was Amy who revived her and saved her from death.
Sethe wants to make a decision about Beloved, Paul D, and Denver. She misses her mother-in-law, who was so helpful in such situations and gave valuable advice. She takes Beloved and Denver with her and goes to the rock near the river where Baby Suggs used to sit. She remembers her soothing hands and how she welcomed everybody to her home. She remembers her own arrival there. She decides to keep Beloved there and spend her life there, but she feels that somebody is strangling her. Denver tells her that it can’t be Baby Suggs’ because her hands were soothing.
Sethe decides to live her life with Paul D, and this upsets Beloved. She leaves for river clearing Denver chases her there. She blames her for strangling Sethe, and she denies it. She decides to stay careful if Beloved tries to kill her mother. When Sethe looks at them, they look like two sisters.
This chapter is a flashback to the time when Paul D was held by his white masters. He was sold by his former master to a new one who was innovative in his cruelties. He used to bind all workers with a chain and made them sleep in wooden boxes. These boxes were sunk in a deep ditch. After raining for several days, they were able to free themselves and reached a Cherokee village. There they were freed of their chains and asked about the way to the north. They told him to walk in the direction of the flowering trees, and thus walking on this blossom track, he was able to reach 124.
Paul D has left 124 gradually, and he sleeps in the storeroom. Beloved visits him and asks him to have intimate physical relations with her, which he refuses. He tells her that the only person he loves is Sethe. He is sure that Beloved can’t harm him, but it is happening, and he is unaware of it. He, at last, fulfills her wishes and accedes to her demand, and at that, the lid of tobacco tin opens. While making love, he repeatedly says, ‘red heart, red heart.’
Denver feels dissatisfied with the attention she receives from Beloved. When she pays attention to her, she feels it as a lovely experience. Sethe asks Beloved questions regarding her past, which she is unable to answer. She assumes that she was a white man’s slave who exploited her, and now she has erased her bad memories. Denver believes that she is the ghost of her sister, who died long ago.
One day she and Beloved go to the cold room to fetch cider jug, and there in the darkness, Beloved disappears. She looks for her, but she is nowhere, suddenly she appears in front of her. She tells her not to go anywhere because she can’t bear this loss after numerous others.
Paul D thinks about his past when he was one of the ‘men’ who Mr. Garner listened to, but with the arrival of another supervisor, he made them believe that they were not humans. He again thinks if he is a man because he is entranced by Beloved, and he, without any resistance, has sex with her. He considers telling this all to Sethe, and he leaves for her restaurant. When he arrives there, he decides not to tell her.
He then asks her to have his child; she responds that the two girls at home are enough. She thinks that she has got her dead daughter back in the form of a beloved.
Paul D and Sethe go upstairs to bed. Beloved asks Denver to make Paul go away. Denver thinks that if this happened, her mother would be mad at Beloved. Beloved’s tooth comes out as she is pulling it and feels if her body will fall apart. She always has a fear that her body will fall apart into pieces. When Denver tells her why she didn’t weep, she starts weeping. Denver holds her in her arms, and she is assured that she would be fine.
In this chapter, there is a flashback to Sethe’s coming at 124. Baby Suggs delayed the celebration of her coming because she didn’t want to be an immature celebration and lost soon. This was a great celebration, and ninety people were fed. There is also a remembrance of how Baby Suggs herself came there.
She was a slave and freed after paying when she broke her leg. Her slave name was Jenny Whitlow, she changed it after her husband’s name, which was Suggs, and he used to call her baby, so she chose the name ‘Baby Suggs.’ Her son Halle made efforts to free her and to pay for this, he worked hard and ultimately was able to do so. She, after her liberty, tried to find her children but lost this cause.
The flashback continues. At 124 sheriff, Sethe’s master, his nephew, and a slave catcher arrive. At their arrival, they see a man and an older woman near the shed. They enter there and find a woman who has killed her own child and is trying to kill another baby by hitting its head against the wall. This kid is saved in time. The sheriff comes to take hold of the kids, but Baby Suggs interrupts and saves them. Then she replaces the dead child with the living one and takes the dead child to another room.
The sheriff calls for a wagon and takes Sethe in it; she proudly steps out of the house and enters the wagon. Denver is in her arms, and she firmly holds her.
Paul D has a newspaper in his hand and looks at the picture of a woman and tells Stamp Paid that it is not Sethe. Stamp knows the story, but he doesn’t tell him what has happened. Instead, he reads him the story from the newspaper. He knows what the incidents that took place in the shed were. He wonders if this all has happened.
Paul D takes that clipping with him and shows it to Sethe. She, instead of laughing, tells him all that had happened. She tells him that she has not shared all the details with anybody, not even Baby Suggs. She tells him how elated she felt at securing her children from that place. The idea of making them free made her ecstatic. She didn’t want them to go back to plantations. He tells her that her love is thick, and she responds by saying that the love that is thin is not love.
He tells her that the path she chose was not right while she defends her decision by saying that she has two feet, not four. Paul leaves without saying goodbye.
Paul D is coming towards 124; he hears loud sounds coming off the house. He feels responsible for Sethe because he is the one who saved her child. He has come to this place just once and not ever after that. Sethe now firmly believes that her dead daughter is back because she hears the sound of the song that she herself made for her children. Stamp thinks about why she killed her own child and after a lot of thinking comes to the conclusion that white had forced her to do so.
Sethe has decided to live peacefully with her children. She remembers the escape plan Halle had made, but only she was able to escape with her children but later recaptured. Stamp believes that 124 is occupied by dead slaves, and he knocks the door, but no one comes, and thus he leaves.
Now, when she has started believing that Beloved has come back to her. She thinks about how to tell her about the reason behind her killing. She thinks of life at Sweet Home, where she was abused, and she told Mrs. Garner. This led to the schoolteacher’s outrage, and she fled with her children. She looked for Halle, but he was nowhere, and she couldn’t see him ever after that.
Later, when they came back to recapture her, she killed her child because she didn’t want them to be abused in slavery by their masters. She recalls the time she wanted to die and be laid with her daughter in the grave, but then she remembered her children. She decided to live for them. Now she is serene because Beloved has come back.
In this chapter, Denver confesses that she had swallowed the blood of her sister with her mother’s milk. She remembers the time when she started growing intimate with the ghost. She reminds of the reasons that made her mother kill Beloved. She wants to tell Beloved to be careful of her mother and stay away from her.
She doesn’t feel easy with Paul D and wants him to leave. She wants to reunite with her father, and if her mother leaves with Paul, she would be fine. She wants a happy family, which would be she, Beloved, and her father.
Beloved talks like babies and tells of the same experiences as Sethe. She relates the hard times when they were shackled and men with no skin given them food. The place was extremely unhealthy. She sees a woman with the same face as her. She wants to separate her from herself, which Beloved doesn’t want to. She then sees this woman in 124, and the face is Sethe’s. She and Sethe can be together.
Beloved continues in the stream of consciousness, and Sethe, along with other people, went into the sea. Denver, Sethe and Beloved talk with each other. Sethe promises not to leave her again, Beloved tells her of her coming from the other side while Denver warns her not to be close with Sethe.
Paul D is sitting in front of the church and remembers the time of his slavery. He thinks of the difference between Mr. Garner and the schoolteacher and finds none. To both, they were slaves. He again doubts his manhood and thinks of Sixo and Halle as men. He remembers how they tried to escape, and Sixo was burnt tied to a tree. He was laughing because one fugitive slave woman had his child in her womb. He at that time thought about Sethe, who, with her children, had left, and he was sad because he couldn’t see her again.
Stamp Paid and Paul talk, they discuss how Stamp changed his name to this and helped fugitive slaves in their freedom. Paul expresses his doubts regarding the presence of the killed girl in 124. Stamp asks him if he is sure this is the girl who was killed. He also asks him if it is the reason he left 124.
XVI, XVII, XVIII
The situation worsens at 124, Sethe has become insane at the sight of Denver’s employer. She thinks he is the schoolteacher and tries to kill him, but he is saved. Paul D returns and finds Sethe alone at home and feels the same sentiments for her what Sixo had felt for Thirty-Mile Woman. He asks her to stand with him and make tomorrow together because they share their yesterday. Beloved is gone, and there is no trace left of her, nor do the people want to remind of that bad memory. They think of it as a story that shouldn’t be passed on.
Beloved by Toni Morrison Characters Analysis
Sethe is the protagonist of the novel. She is an escaped slave and is a proud, noblewoman. Her ideal role in this novel is that of a mother; she tries to do anything possible for her children. She has lived a miserable life herself, but she doesn’t want her children to live life like this and, for this purpose, escapes the plantation.
She kills her daughter because she thinks its better to kill her than to hand her to the slave owners. She, like her mother-in-law, is a character that is a representation of the true human spirit. Society thinks unfair of her, but she doesn’t care about it. Instead of accepting help from others, she prefers to earn her livelihood by working herself, and that shows her desire not to hurt her ego.
She is not hurt by physical and sexual abuse, but the schoolteacher’s verbal abuse hurts her. She doesn’t want encounters with her past but still is entrapped in it. She is a strong woman, accepts her past, and moves to the future, trying to lead a new life with Paul D.
Beloved is Sethe’s murdered daughter. She was two years old when her mother escaped saving her children from slavery. She was caught by her master, and to save her daughter; she killed her. She comes to their life years later in the form of a ghost. She is disguised as an eighteen-year-old girl and tries to occupy the home.
She attempts to drive her mother’s lover out of her home but fails, and instead, she is driven out. Her character is mysterious in the novel. There are chances that she has been kept enslaved by a white man to fulfill his sexual needs, and now she is an ordinary woman.
There are some chances that she is a ghost because, at her sight, Sethe loses control over her urination. Another instance of it is the knowledge that she has regarding Sethe’s past life. There is a sign of scar near her chin, and it may be the sign of a wound that had been there when Sethe killed her daughter. Some scholars muse that it is the ghost of Sethe’s dead mother.
Whoever may be, she but it is clear that she is an allegorical figure, and she represents enslaved black women. She vanishes at the end of the story, but she is nowhere gone. She is forgotten by people, but the novel preserves her. She is a past that is both painful and destructive. She revives the repressed memories and gives people a chance to tell the stories they didn’t want to remember.
She is the most intelligent girl and a dynamic character. She is an introspective and sensitive person who stays in her closet and thinks about the matters in her life. She is a charmed child and thought to have contacts with supernatural beings. She is eighteen years old and still doesn’t want to get out of her home and wants to live life in seclusion. She is the most affected in the events of the novel.
She has been told that her mother has killed her elder child and spends life in fear that she may be killed too. She wants her father back in her life and doesn’t like Paul D’s coming into their life. She is a teenager who is in search of her identity. She craves attention because, in contrast to normal children, there is a lot that is missing in her life. She evolves throughout the novel and becomes independent. She is the one who comes out of home and asks the community for help to drive out Beloved.
She finds a job for herself and then opts to go to college. She faces odds in the form of negligence from her mother and malevolence of Beloved.
Paul D is Sethe’s fellow slave at Sweet Home. He is, and his other friends are candidates to be Sethe’s husband, but she chooses Halle. After this decision, they still fantasize about marrying her. He has suffered physical and emotional brutality. He has buried emotions in his heart and never expresses them. He has been through his hardest times and believes that one shouldn’t attach himself to anything too much.
He tried to escape from his master like Sethe and others but failed and was captured. He was sold to a new owner, and he tried to kill the master. He was kept in chains, but he tried to escape and was fortunate in this attempt. He then wandered at different places and didn’t try to settle at any place. He was in love and wanted to marry her and ended up in 124. He came to her house, and they came to a relationship, but he was disliked by Beloved and Denver. He left Sethe’s house.
He came to know how Sethe had killed her daughter and started to hate her for it. He then reconciled himself with this incident and came back to her intending to spend life with her.
Baby Suggs was Halle’s mother and a former slave. She has died before the start of the novel. She spent her life with different husbands, and each child had a different father. Her last child was Halle, and he was the only child she was able to raise. She had become crippled when he was growing up. He bought her freedom, and she set up a matriarchy. She was a generous person. She had a prominent role in her society and helped those in need. She was the one who gave Sethe and Denver shelter and tried to be their support.
For people of Cincinnati, her personality is an emotional and spiritual inspiration. Her health starts to fail after Sethe’s killing of her young child. She is the inspiration behind Denver’s coming out of the house when due to Beloved, the condition has worsened. She has been the head of black people’s gatherings in the past. This is the reason people help Denver when she comes and asks them for it.
He is a figure of salvation and has saved many people from slavery. He is welcomed at every home in the town. He saves Denver and Sethe’s life. His life is changed by a sacrifice during enslavement, and he vows to help people in need. He feels angry about the society’s neglect of Denver and Sethe and questions their responsibilities.
He takes charge of the plantation after the death of Mr. Garner and is a cruel man. Like the rest of slave owners, he doesn’t consider slaves as human beings. He brings rigid rules and punishments at the plantation for the slaves. Shortly, he is an evil incarnate.
Halle is Baby Suggs’ son and Sethe’s husband. He is a kind, sincere, and generous person. He understands the reality of slave owners and isn’t in any misconception regarding it. He goes mad at Sethe’s abuse by the schoolteacher’s nephews.
She is a woman of mixed races. She has blonde hair, and she hates it. Though she is alienated in society, she still understands her responsibilities and helps those in need. She is doubtful of what Denver tells her, but still, she arranges to send food to Sethe’s household.
She is also a former slave. She was abused by her owner and his son. She believes that bad memories should be forgotten. She leads the people when there is an attempt made to get out Beloved of 124.
Mr. and Mrs. Garner
They were the owners of Sweet House and the plantations where Sethe and her fellows worked. They are apparently benevolent to their slaves but are after all slave owners. They strategically manipulate the slaves and use them for their purpose, thus keeping them away from thinking about rebellion.
Mr. and Mrs. Bodwin
These are siblings and white abolitionists. They are the ones who bring Denver and Sethe freedom. These characters are somewhat contradictory, but they are far better than the rest of the white people. They believe that all human beings are holy regardless of their color.
She is a young, compassionate white girl. She is an indentured servant and helps Sethe deliver Denver. She is an idealistic and talkative girl. She helps Sethe when she is ill. Denver is named after her by her mother as a tribute to her services.
Paul A, Paul F, Sixo
Pauls are Paul D’s brothers, and they work on the same farm with him. Sixo is their fellow slave who dies with Paul A in an attempt to escape from the plantation.
Beloved by Toni Morrison Themes
Slavery erases all the human feelings of a person, and the same is the case with love. Paul D knows this fact and believes that while being in love and being a slave at the same time is risky. The same happens with Sethe, who tries to give her children maternal love and, as a result, loses her daughter.
She earns guilt as an additional supplement. There is a clear line drawn between love and slavery. Love and freedom are defined in this novel as the ability to choose things which is impossible in slavery. In slavery, one doesn’t even have the choice about oneself, then how can he/she chose other things.
Guilt is an undeniable reality that accompanies a wrong. In Beloved, Sethe is haunted by the guilt and becomes incarnate in the form of Beloved. She remembers the wrong she has committed to her daughter and tries to reassure her that she did it out of love. She tries to take care of her and pays much attention to her neglecting Denver. This is done to atone for the crime she has committed. For this purpose, she even forgets herself and tries to please Beloved. She gets rid of this guilt, ultimately when Beloved is driven out of her house.
Loss of Identity in Slavery
Slavery brings physical, emotional, and spiritual destruction. The memories of slavery and the miserable days are not forgettable even after their freedom. Slaves lose identity as human beings, and the only thing they know about themselves is being a slave. There are multiple examples in this novel which show the self-alienation of different characters. Paul D hears screams and is not sure whether these exist in real. Slaves were considered animals by their owners and traded as a commodity.
The majority of the characters in this novel are in doubt whether they are human beings in real or not. There are feelings of mental and physical disintegration in slaves, and all these contribute to the loss of identity.
Past Vs. Present
If people have some past memories, there is a constant fight going on between their past and present. In this novel, Sethe tries to bury her past. She tries to get rid of the memory of her daughter’s murder but isn’t able to do so; her ghost haunts her. Paul D’s arrival adds to the misery, and she remembers all the things that happened on the plantation and incidents that took place after that.
Paul D has buried his memories in his heart, though they come back and haunt him, he is able to show no emotional reaction to them. Beloved comes and revives the buried memories in Sethe’s mind and ruins her mental stability. She starts raving and is recovered only when Beloved is driven out of the house.
There are a lot of supernatural elements in this novel. For instance, there are ghosts, charms, risen babies, and this shows the expression of the past in the present. These are the past memories and incidents which express themselves in present dominating the conscious. Human beings often accept these delusions as supernatural elements. In this novel majority of the characters believe in the supernatural and, in some cases, have experienced the supernatural. This shows their bad memories from the past.
Importance of Community Solidarity
The importance of the individual in his survival is of prime importance, but society’s role can’t be neglected. Individuals need support from society before taking any step. This is shown in Beloved when Sethe comes to Cincinnati. The fugitive and freed slaves are supported and provided by the community at Cincinnati, and an example of it is the residence provided to Sethe at 124. Another instance of it is Beloved’s arrival at 124; she occupies the house. The residents are not able to live their life normally, and then again, society comes to help Sethe and her daughter to get rid of Beloved.
The community’s role is important; it becomes necessary in societies like that of former slaves. They don’t have families or blood relations; rather, their community plays this role, and they share good and bad times together.
The Powers and Limits of Language
Language is manipulated by those in power, and it is shown in this novel. The slaves try to use language in the same way if it could change their fate. They change their names to get rid of their memories. They try to forget their bad days by renaming things. Once the schoolteacher tells the slaves that they are the definers and they interpret or redefine things. He tells the slaves that they have to obey and not to argue. This shows the abuse of rhetoric by the powerful.
In normal cases, home is a term which signifies comfort and security. In the case of this novel, the concept is the opposite. The former slaves have led a life in which all the terms have changed their meanings, and home is an inclusion. Before their freedom, they had no homes, and their residences were uncomfortable places, which instead of rest were a source of jeopardy.
Now after freedom, all the memories of that life haunt them, and when they are given a comfortable life, they don’t fit with it. This novel term ‘Sweet Home’ is used for one place, and it is the farm owner’s residence. This shows the ironic existence of such a place and the inability of the former slaves to adjust to it.
To the general public, slavery means evil, and the slave owners evil incarnate. In Beloved, the author has attempted to find its denotations and connotations in a different way. She has explored the good and bad aspects as well as the grey areas. She has shown slave owners in the evilest form.
There is also a portrayal of slaves in dark aspects when Sethe kills her own daughter. There are also some slave owners shown who consider slaves human beings. The issue of slavery is thoroughly discussed in this novel, and it is the reader’s choice to make an opinion regarding it.
Beloved by Toni Morrison Literary Analysis
Beloved is a masterpiece of African-American literature, and it encapsulates the experiences of slaves in a relatively short time and space. It expertly tells of what miseries the slaves had to face, and this is shown through artistic use of the imagery. Figurative language is employed successfully to let the reader imagine and place him/herself in place of a slave.
It gives an exquisite experience of the “great” American civilization. It puts forward the ironies of the society, which presents itself as the protector and champion of human rights. Above all, Beloved is an immortal human experience that is understandable and can be felt in any period of time.
It is a work of Gothic fiction that relates a family drama and coming of age of some characters. Denver is the most evident example. It can also be credited as historical fiction because it tells the story of millions of slaves and people’s history of the United States.
The tone of the novel is elegiac, mourning the miseries in the lives of African Americans. It can be inferred from Sethe’s talks and thinking as well from the dedication which dedicates it to sixty million and more. It is an obvious reference to those who suffered.
There is also hope in the tone, telling of the good days, as Paul D thinks that he will have happy days with Sethe. There is a lot of love and an indication not to look back, and that makes it optimistic, asking the reader to make life beautiful.
Setting of the Novel
Spatially this novel is set in a small country house, and there are references to different places in Kentucky and Ohio. 124 Bluestone is not just a house; it is a small world that tries to depict all the experiences of slave life. Temporally this novel is set in the pre-civil war era. There are references to Sweet House, which is situated in Ohio, Fugitive Act of 1851, and many other references that clarify its setting.
Point of View
The author doesn’t stick to a single narrative style and uses more than one. She switches between many styles, and that happens before informing the reader. Often the switching is so subtle that the reader doesn’t understand it and is stuck in one place. Third-person omniscient and third-person limited are used in a major part of the novel. There are also traces of universal omniscient and first-person narrators.
Significance of the Title
The title plays an important role in creating drama in this novel. The reader is confused about who is beloved and of whom. There are numerous people who can be called beloved in this novel, and it can be inferred that humanity is beloved. This is evident from the dedication which doesn’t dedicate it to specific people. It’s for all, though it figuratively refers to African Americans.
Significance of the Ending
In the end, we see that everything has changed. Sethe and Paul D dedicate themselves to each other and decide to start a new life. Denver gets a job and will enter a college while Beloved is driven out. The story doesn’t end here. Beloved has gone, but her story isn’t easy to forget, she will be remembered. The Past will be used to move the present.
Epigraph and Dedication
The epigraph and dedication make the message universal, and it is a ray of hope for all those bearing hardships. The epigraph is taken from the Bible, and the dedication is to sixty million and more, which makes it ambiguous but clear for humanity.
Toni Morrison, like the rest of modernist novelists, writes in a complicated way. She writes with all her senses, and that ofttimes makes the novel hard to understand. Her metaphors are laden with meanings, and an example of it is ‘rusted tin box of tobacco’ for the heart, which conveys the compact message. She is an impressionist writer and employs the same tool here in this novel.