Beloved by Toni Morrison

Beloved is the narrative about Sethe and her daughter, Denver, both of whom reside in 124, a house haunted by baby Beloved, who is Sethe’s murdered two-year-old daughter. For all of her life, Denver has had no friends, except for the ghost, and is angry when Paul D. appears one day and send s the ghost away.  Paul D. only has good intentions with the family, and wants to help Sethe; he takes the two women to a carnival and when the trio return they are greeted by a strange woman: it is the reincarnation of baby Beloved. This new intruder slowly works to remove Paul D. from the house, and once he is removed from the house, she begins to take control of Sethe. The two women both desire Beloved’s affection and attention, but slowly Denver begins to recognize the detrimental affects her presence is having on the family. Denver takes it upon herself to procure a job and work to support her mother and Beloved. It is through this action that she becomes closer to the Black community, who in turn, become more aware of the situation in 124. Eventually, the community comes together and exorcize Beloved once more from the house.

The novel is separated into three parts and the main settings are 124, which is located in a town outside of Cincinnati, OH, and Sweet Home plantation. Similarly, the narrative goes back and forth between the present and flashbacks, which predominately relate the lives of Sethe and Paul D. when they were living as slaves.

The Concept

Magical Realism is a tool used to take our reality out of context by placing ‘unreal’ events and items within the text. This allows the reader to analyze broad reaching sociopolitical aspects of a novel that may have not been clear without the magical elements.

Beloved fits into this category because of Morrison’s use of ghosts and possession within a small family creates a duality within the text that allows it to be read in multiple lights, depending on the layers one chooses to peel away.

In Beloved the reader experiences elements of magical realism immediately.  Sethe, who is an escaped slave, and her daughter, Denver, haunted by Sethe’s murdered baby, Beloved.  The infant leaves behind traces of her tantrums when she tosses things in the house, is heard crying, and tries to continue to gain her mother’s attention.  When a mysterious young woman appears suddenly at the house, it is assumed that she is Sethe’s baby brought from death.

Sethe is haunted by her past, and struggles to maintain a semblance of peace, but still remains trapped by her previous life.  Morrison uses the baby to demonstrate Sethe’s immediate connection with her past and how it continues to follow her. Baby Beloved is symbolic of the damage done to Sethe and the other slaves, which dcontinued even after they are freed.  It affects characters like Sethe, Paul D., and Baby Suggs spiritually, physically, and psychologically. Similar to how Beloved never leaves, the sins and the cruelties of the past never really leave.

Morrison shows this through the magical connection Sethe and Denver have with the spirit of Beloved, and also, later, when the adult Beloved enters the narrative.



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