The Beloved, by Toni Morrison | Summary and Analysis
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"124 was spiteful. 124 was loud. 124 was quiet." The house 124 that Sethe's family lives in is haunted by the ghost of the baby who drives her two sons away as well as the rest of the neighbourhood. Paul D, an old friend from Sweet Home, visits 124 in search of Baby Suggs, Sethe's mother-in-law, only to find she died eight years ago. Paul D is invited into the house where he meets Denver and senses the evilness of Beloved, however the ghost is soon sent away after Paul D's arrival which upsets Denver and causes her to act coldly towards him. Recalling memories of Sweet Home of Sethe's marriage to Halle, the other men at Sweet Home and Sethe's escape, "the notion of a future" with Paul D crossed Sethe's mind.
That Thursday the three of them went to the carnival in town which made all three happy, however on return to 124 they found a woman sat on a tree stump who said her name was Beloved which excited Denver for she now had the company she longed for. Denver went out of her way to make Beloved feel better and although Denver loved her, Paul D thought there was something strange about her. Beloved continued to ask Sethe and Denver of their past and Denver's birth. Denver told Beloved about Baby Suggs, her Grandmother, and about the Clearing where Baby Suggs used to preach. The three women headed towards the Clearing for Sethe to think, however she was choked by someone or something who she thought was Baby Suggs. Denver thought otherwise and thought it was Beloved who choked her. Beloved seduces Paul D after he believes she has driven himself and Sethe apart. This leads Paul D to ask for him and Sethe to have a child together, thinking that this would relieve Beloved's power over him. However, Paul D is infuriated by Beloved as she waits for Sethe to return home from work, which strengthens Sethe's belief of Beloved being her child she gave birth to and breaks the romance between the couple because she wants Paul D to leave.
In flashback, the memory of Sethe murdering her baby is then evoked. It was Stamp Paid, an old friend, who took the dead baby from Sethe and gave her Denver before Sethe was placed in custody. Then in present, Stamp visits Paul D and shows him a newspaper clipping of when Sethe murdered the baby. In disbelief, he insults Sethe and leaves her. Sethe took Baby Suggs' advice; "lay it all down" and so she did. The three of them went ice skating and laughed endlessly resulting in Sethe to go late to work the next day, and she did so for the following weeks until she was fired. Feeling guilty for sending Paul D away, Stamp argues with Ella after finding out she didn't offer Paul D a place to stay and he was staying at the church, recalling memories of Sweet Home.
Feeling she was responsible for the silence and hunger at 124, Denver felt it was only right that she left 124. All three grew tired therefore in search for a better life, Denver received help from Lady Jones and the rest of the neighbourhood. During the day she looked after Sethe She and in the evenings worked for the Bodwins. However, on the first day of work, when Edward Bodwin came to collect her, the ladies of the neighbourhood gathered together at 124. As Edward arrived, Sethe thought of him as a man who wanted slaves and attacked him with an ice pick, leaving Beloved standing on the porch alone but as everybody looked back, there was nobody standing on the porch. After the incident, Paul D came back into Denver and Sethe's lives and they all forgot Beloved and thought of her as an unpleasant dream.
This novel is written in third person singular with an omniscient style but however shifts to first person singular; "Sethe had the amazing luck of six whole years of marriages to that "somebody" son who had fathered every one of her children" and "I never had to give it to nobody else - and the one time I did it was took from me - they held me down and took it." The pronouns 'he' and 'she' are frequently used and characters are continuously addressed by their names. The novel is also written in flashback whilst describing Sethe's escape and the birth of Denver to Beloved. Flashback is also found when she recalls memories of Sweet Home with Paul D and when Paul D has memories of his brothers. Also there is a chapter written in stream of consciousness relating to Beloved's thoughts; "I am not big small rats do not wait for us to sleep someone is thrashing but there is no room to do it in â€¦"
Denver: is an independent, selfless young lady. This is shown through her care and devotion to Beloved when she arrives at the house sick. She is also a determined girl that devotes her time to her family, especially her mother when she is sick. Denver is an independent woman as her independence is shown when she seeks a job to support her family when her mother lost her job.
Sethe: is a very kind and compassionate woman as she is devoted to her family, even during the hardest situations. This is shown because she was a slave in her past at Sweet Home and she escaped for her family. It is also portrayed when she went hungry and picked the crusts for her children to eat, especially Beloved. She is also a very proud woman as she is determined to endure the 'correct' way of marriage at Sweet Home when marrying Halle this is shown when Sethe is adamant on having a wedding dress on the first night they are together.
Beloved: at first is portrayed as a helpless woman, seeking attention and love. This is given to her by Denver as she cures her from her sickness by devoting her time. However, Beloved then becomes an untrustworthy, selfish woman. Her selfishness is shown manipulation, as she deceives Sethe by acting upon her guilt. She doesn't forgive Sethe for her past and forces power upon her to give her what she wants.
Language & Diction
Beloved is a descriptive novel that uses informal language often including slang and vulgarity throughout dialogue. The language and diction also reflects the speech of Afro-Americans for example; "Beloved, she my daughter. She mine." Long sentences are used to describe feelings and objects, for example; "Although they had been polite to her during the quiet time and gave her the whole top of the bed, she remembered how it was before: the pleasure they had sitting clustered on the white stairs - she between the knees of Howard or Buglar - while they made up die-witch! stories with proven ways of killing her dead". Short sentences are used more often during dialogue such as; "Now you. Come on," and "Come on in here girls." Short sentences are also used to make impact and emphasize the meaning, for instance; "124 was spiteful. Full of a baby's venom."
The imagery is evident throughout the novel because all stimuli are aroused. Tactile imagery is evident when Paul D touches Sethe in the kitchen as "he rubbed his cheek on her back and learned that way her sorrow." There is a sense of smell when the roses at the carnival are described; "the closer the roses got to death, the louder their scent" and "stench of the rotten roses." Visual imagery is foreseen throughout the novel when the keeping room is described and how Baby Suggs was "starved for colour". One can imagine the "slate-coloured walls" and the "earth-brown floor" and the dullness of the room. Auditory imagery is evident when Denver can hear "chickens and the knock of a badly hinged gate" as well as voices behind her as she walked. Taste imagery is evident when the numerous offers of foods are found on the tree stump each day, each meal provided by a different neighbour; "sack of white beans," "plate of cold rabbit meat," Taste imagery is also found during a memory of 124 of "tonic mixed that cured a relative," as one can imagine the strength of the mixture.
The theme of evil is represented throughout the novel by Beloved, as a ghost and as a person. This is evident when the ghost of Beloved chases away her two brothers, Howard and Buglar as well as other people who use to walk along Bluestone Road. The evil represented through Beloved as a human being is when she manipulates Sethe and causes pain for Sethe, although Sethe only seeks forgiveness. A theme of religion is also apparent throughout the novel as God and Jesus are constantly being referred to. It is carried throughout the novel by Baby Suggs from her preaching at the Clearing then Paul D and at the end of the novel, by Denver who was given a Bible by Lady Jones.
This novel is set in America mainly 124 Bluestone Road. This is evident because Sethe escaped to Ohio to number 124 where Baby Suggs was living in Cincinnati. The novel is also set at a place called Sweet Home. Sweet Home is brought into the novel whilst Sethe has flashbacks of her past before she escaped. The setting is also evident because of the diction used whilst a character speaks.
The genre is a family drama because of the life experiences the family endure. All adult characters in the novel were previously slaves who had escaped and Baby Suggs was bought by her own sons' earnings. Sethe also experienced her child's death before her own. After this, her 'dead daughter' came back to 124 but tormented her by using her guilt against her. The novel is also an Afro-American genre because of diction used during speech and first person narrative style.
Aspects I liked
I enjoyed the fact that Sethe escaped from the hardships of being a slave at Sweet Home and that her present is better because she left the home. I also enjoyed the fact that Denver devoted her time to Beloved and that Sethe and Denver were accepting of her when they found Beloved sat outside their house. I didn't enjoy the fact that Paul D just left Sethe from his jealousy of Sethe's love towards Beloved and his negativity and disloyalty towards Beloved. I also didn't enjoy the fact that Beloved turned against Sethe and starting making her 'pay' for her past even though Sethe felt apologetic and guilty for what she had done and now only wanted to give Beloved the best. I was happy that Denver did everything she could to protect Sethe from Beloved's nastiness and glad when Denver and Sethe could forget the torment and pain Beloved caused.
I would recommend this novel to any high school children that is not easily offended by vulgar language but whoever understands the change from past to present as the novel is written in flashback making it a difficult read. I would also recommend this novel to one who enjoys reading about the hardships of life and devastation that can be caused in the future from mistakes in the past, affecting not just one person but a whole family.
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