Author: Toni Morrison
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Genre: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism
First Publication: 1987
Major Characters: Baby Suggs, Sethe, Beloved, Paul D Garner, Denver
Setting Place: The outskirts of Cincinnati, Ohio in the years just before (1855) and directly following (1873) the Civil War; flashbacks to the Sweet Home plantation in Kentucky
Theme: Slavery, Motherhood, Storytelling, Memory, and the Past, Community
Narrator: Third person omniscient, with first-person passages from various points of view
Book Summary: Beloved by Toni Morrison
Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby.
Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Her new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.
Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement by Nobel Prize laureate Toni Morrison.
Book Review: Beloved by Toni Morrison
Beloved by Toni Morrison is a beautiful, haunting story that is set around the time following the slavery emancipation declaration. It’s mysterious and supernatural, as well as being a love story, a tale of horror, forgiveness, loss and confusion. It’s very poetic and lyrical, full of metaphors and powerful imagery.
Beloved by Toni Morrison tells the story of Sethe, a runaway slave who has left her home in the South but is still living in the past. Her deceased two year old baby supposedly haunts 124, the house in which she and her daughter Denver live. Later, we find out the awful way in which the baby died and that makes the story even more tragic.
“Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.”
The house is an ominous character in Beloved by Toni Morrison; it had a life of its own. I felt the hopelessness of Sethe and Denver who had no place else to go.
The love story in Beloved by Toni Morrison is a different kind of love story, a love story that involves a couple, Sethe and Paul D, who were once slaves. How can people move on from being slaves to being in free relationships? As slaves they became accustomed to their loved ones, their parents, children and lovers being sold or running away. The past has left scar marks like the scars in the shape of a chokeberry tree on Sethe’s back.
“Sweet, crazy conversations full of half sentences, daydreams and misunderstandings more thrilling than understanding could ever be.”
For Toni Morrison this is part of her personal history, and she makes herself the voice of this legion of ghosts whose stories some people would like to remain buried and forgotten. With her artistic sensibilities, she takes a real case of a woman pushed beyond the limits of endurance by the system (Margaret Garner) and makes it a poem of pain and redemption, of the awakening of individual conscience and of the sense of belonging to a community of the oppressed.