About the Author
Toni Morrison is the Robert F. Goheen Professor of Humanities at Princeton University. She has received the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. In 1993 she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. She lives in Rockland County, New York, and Princeton, New Jersey.
Hometown:Princeton, New Jersey, and Manhattan
Date of Birth:February 18, 1931
Place of Birth:Lorain, Ohio
Education:Howard University, B.A. in English, 1953; Cornell, M.A., 1955
Read an Excerpt
124 WAS SPITEFUL. Full of a baby's venom. The women in the house knew it and so did the children. For years each put up with the spite in his own way, but by 1873 Sethe and her daughter Denver were its only victims. The grandmother, Baby Suggs, was dead, and the sons, Howard and Buglar, had run away by the time they were thirteen years old--as soon as merely looking in a mirror shattered it (that was the signal for Buglar); as soon as two tiny band prints appeared in the cake (that was it for Howard). Neither boy waited to see more; another kettleful of chickpeas smoking in a heap on the floor; soda crackers crumbled and strewn in a line next to the doorsill. Nor did they wait for one of the relief periods: the weeks, months even, when nothing was disturbed. No. Each one fled at once--the moment the house committed what was for him the one insult not to be borne or witnessed a second time. Within two months, in the dead of winter, leaving their grandmother, Baby Suggs; Sethe, their mother; and their little sister, Denver, all by themselves in the gray and white house on Bluestone Road. It didn't have a number then, because Cincinnati didn't stretch that far. In fact, Ohio had been calling itself a state only seventy years when first one brother and then the next stuffed quilt packing into his hat, snatched up his shoes, and crept away from the lively spite the house felt for them.
Baby Suggs didn't even raise her head. From her sickbed she heard them go but that wasn't the reason she lay still. It was a wonder to her that her grandsons had taken so long to realize that every house wasn't like the one on Bluestone Road. Suspended between the nastiness of life and the meanness of the dead, she couldn't get interested in leaving life or living it, let alone the fright of two creeping-off boys. Her past had been like her present--intolerable--and since she knew death was anything but forgetfulness, she used the little energy left her for pondering color.
"Bring a little lavender in, if you got any. Pink, if you don't."
And Sethe would oblige her with anything from fabric to her own tongue. Winter in Ohio was especially rough if you had an appetite for color. Sky provided the only drama, and counting on a Cincinnati horizon for life's principal joy was reckless indeed. So Sethe and the girl Denver did what they could, and what the house permitted, for her. Together they waged a perfunctory battle against the outrageous behavior of that place; against turned-over slop jars, smacks on the behind, and gusts of sour air. For they understood the source of the outrage as well as they knew the source of light.
Baby Suggs died shortly after the brothers left, with no interest whatsoever in their leave-taking or hers, and right afterward Sethe and Denver decided to end the persecution by calling forth the ghost that tried them so. Perhaps a conversation, they thought, an exchange of views or something would help. So they held hands and said, "Come on. Come on. You may as well just come on."
The sideboard took a step forward but nothing else did.
"Grandma Baby must be stopping it," said Denver. She was ten and still mad at Baby Suggs for dying.
Sethe opened her eyes. "I doubt that," she said.
"Then why don't it come?"
"You forgetting how little it is," said her mother. "She wasn't even two years old when she died. Too little to understand. Too little to talk much even."
"Maybe she don't want to understand," said Denver.
"Maybe. But if she'd only come, I could make it clear to her." Sethe released her daughter's hand and together they pushed the sideboard back against the wall. Outside a driver whipped his horse into the gallop local people felt necessary when they passed 124.
"For a baby she throws a powerful spell," said Denver.
"No more powerful than the way I loved her," Sethe answered and there it was again. The welcoming cool of unchiseled headstones; the one she selected to lean against on tiptoe, her knees wide open as any grave. Pink as a fingernail it was, and sprinkled with glittering chips. Ten minutes, he said. You got ten minutes I'll do it for free.
Ten minutes for seven letters. With another ten could she have gotten "Dearly" too? She had not thought to ask him and it bothered her still that it might have been possible--that for twenty minutes, a half hour, say, she could have had the whole thing, every word she heard the preacher say at the funeral (and all there was to say, surely) engraved on her baby's headstone: Dearly Beloved. But what she got, settled for, was the one word that mattered. She thought it would be enough, rutting among the headstones with the engraver, his young son looking on, the anger in his face so old; the appetite in it quite new. That should certainly be enough. Enough to answer one more preacher, one more abolitionist and a town full of disgust.
Counting on the stillness of her own soul, she had forgotten the other one: the soul of her baby girl. Who would have thought that a little old baby could harbor so much rage? Rutting among the stones under the eyes of the engraver's son was not enough. Not only did she have to live out her years in a house palsied by the baby's fury at having its throat cut, but those ten minutes she spent pressed up against dawn-colored stone studded with star chips, her knees wide open as the grave, were longer than life, more alive, more pulsating than the baby blood that soaked her fingers like oil.
"We could move," she suggested once to her mother-in-law.
"What'd be the point?" asked Baby Suggs. "Not a house in the country ain't packed to its rafters with some dead Negro's grief. We lucky this ghost is a baby. My husband's spirit was to come back in here? or yours? Don't talk to me. You lucky. You got three left. Three pulling at your skirts and just one raising hell from the other side. Be thankful, why don't you? I had eight. Every one of them gone away from me. Four taken, four chased, and all, I expect, worrying somebody's house into evil." Baby Suggs rubbed her eyebrows. "My firstborn. All I can remember of her is how she loved the burned bottom of bread. Can you beat that? Eight children and that's all I remember."
"That's all you let yourself remember," Sethe had told her, but she was down to one herself--one alive, that is--the boys chased off by the dead one, and her memory of Buglar was fading fast. Howard at least had a head shape nobody could forget. As for the rest, she worked hard to remember as close to nothing as was safe. Unfortunately her brain was devious. She might be hurrying across a field, running practically, to get to the pump quickly and rinse the chamomile sap from her legs. Nothing else would be in her mind. The picture of the men coming to nurse her was as lifeless as the nerves in her back where the skin buckled like a washboard. Nor was there the faintest scent of ink or the cherry gum and oak bark from which it was made. Nothing. Just the breeze cooling her face as she rushed toward water. And then sopping the chamomile away with pump water and rags, her mind fixed on getting every last bit of sap off--on her carelessness in taking a shortcut across the field just to save a half mile, and not noticing how high the weeds had grown until the itching was all the way to her knees. Then something. The plash of water, the sight of her shoes and stockings awry on the path where she had flung them; or Here Boy lapping in the puddle near her feet, and suddenly there was Sweet Home rolling, rolling, rolling out before her eyes, and although there was not a leaf on that farm that did not make her want to scream, it rolled itself out before her in shameless beauty. It never looked as terrible as it was and it made her wonder if hell was a pretty place too. Fire and brimstone all right, but hidden in lacy groves. Boys hanging from the most beautiful sycamores in the world. It shamed her--remembering the wonderful soughing trees rather than the boys. Try as she might to make it otherwise, the sycamores beat out the children every time and she could not forgive her memory for that.
When the last of the chamomile was gone, she went around to the front of the house, collecting her shoes and stockings on the way. As if to punish her further for her terrible memory, sitting on the porch not forty feet away was Paul D, the last of the Sweet Home men. And although she could never mistake his face for another's, she said, "Is that you?"
"What's left." He stood up and smiled. "How you been, girl, besides barefoot?"
When she laughed it came out loose and young. "Messed up my legs back yonder. Chamomile."
He made a face as though tasting a teaspoon of something bitter. "I don't want to even hear 'bout it. Always did hate that stuff."
Sethe balled up her stockings and jammed them into her pocket. "Come on in."
"Porch is fine, Sethe. Cool out here." He sat back down and looked at the meadow on the other side of the road, knowing the eagerness he felt would be in his eyes.
"Eighteen years," she said softly.
"Eighteen," he repeated. "And I swear I been walking every one of em. Mind if I join you?" He nodded toward her feet and began unlacing his shoes.
"You want to soak them? Let me get you a basin of water." She moved closer to him to enter the house.
"No, uh uh. Can't baby feet. A whole lot more tramping they got to do yet."
"You can't leave right away, Paul D. You got to stay awhile."
"Well, long enough to see Baby Suggs, anyway. Where is she?"
"Aw no. When?"
"Eight years now. Almost nine."
"Was it hard? I hope she didn't die hard."
Sethe shook her head. "Soft as cream. Being alive was the hard part. Sorry you missed her though. Is that what you came by for?"
"That's some of what I came for. The rest is you. But if all the truth be known, I go anywhere these days. Anywhere they let me sit down."
"You looking good."
"Devil's confusion. He lets me look good long as I feel bad." He looked at her and the word "bad" took on another meaning.
Sethe smiled. This is the way they were--had been. All of the Sweet Home men, before and after Halle, treated her to a mild brotherly flirtation, so subtle you had to scratch for it.
Except for a heap more hair and some waiting in his eyes, he looked the way he had in Kentucky. Peachstone skin; straight-backed. For a man with an immobile face it was amazing how ready it was to smile, or blaze or be sorry with you. As though all you had to do was get his attention and right away he produced the feeling you were feeling. With less than a blink, his face seemed to change--underneath it lay the activity.
"I wouldn't have to ask about him, would I? You'd tell me if there was anything to tell, wouldn't you?" Sethe looked down at her feet and saw again the sycamores.
"I'd tell you. Sure I'd tell you. I don't know any more now than I did then." Except for the churn, he thought, and you don't need to know that. "You must think he's still alive."
"No. I think he's dead. It's not being sure that keeps him alive."
"What did Baby Suggs think?"
"Same, but to listen to her, all her children is dead. Claimed she felt each one go the very day and hour."
"When she say Halle went?"
"Eighteen fifty-five. The day my baby was born."
"You had that baby, did you? Never thought you'd make it." He chuckled. "Running off pregnant."
"Had to. Couldn't be no waiting." She lowered her head and thought, as he did, how unlikely it was that she had made it. And if it hadn't been for that girl looking for velvet, she never would have.
"All by yourself too." He was proud of her and annoyed by her. Proud she had done it; annoyed that she had not needed Halle or him in the doing.
"Almost by myself. Not all by myself. A whitegirl helped me."
"Then she helped herself too, God bless her."
"You could stay the night, Paul D."
"You don't sound too steady in the offer."
Sethe glanced beyond his shoulder toward the closed door. "Oh it's truly meant. I just hope you'll pardon my house. Come on in. Talk to Denver while I cook you something."
Paul D tied his shoes together, hung them over his shoulder and followed her through the door straight into a pool of red and undulating light that locked him where he stood.
"You got company?" he whispered, frowning.
"Off and on," said Sethe.
"Good God." He backed out the door onto the porch. "What kind of evil you got in here?"
"It's not evil, just sad. Come on. Just step through."
He looked at her then, closely. Closer than he had when she first rounded the house on wet and shining legs, holding her shoes and stockings up in one hand, her skirts in the other. Halle's girl--the one with iron eyes and backbone to match. He had never seen her hair in Kentucky. And though her face was eighteen years older than when last he saw her, it was softer now. Because of the hair. A face too still for comfort; irises the same color as her skin, which, in that still face, used to make him think of a mask with mercifully punched-out eyes. Halle's woman. Pregnant every year including the year she sat by the fire telling him she was going to run. Her three children she had already packed into a wagonload of others in a caravan of Negroes crossing the river. They were to be left with Halle's mother near Cincinnati. Even in that tiny shack, leaning so close to the fire you could smell the heat in her dress, her eyes did not pick up a flicker of light. They were like two wells into which he had trouble gazing. Even punched out they needed to be covered, lidded, marked with some sign to warn folks of what that emptiness held. So he looked instead at the fire while she told him, because her husband was not there for the telling. Mr. Garner was dead and his wife had a lump in her neck the size of a sweet potato and unable to speak to anyone. She leaned as close to the fire as her pregnant belly allowed and told him, Paul D, the last of the Sweet Home men.
What People are Saying About This
“A masterwork. . . . Wonderful. . . . I can’t imagine American literature without it.” —John Leonard, Los Angeles Times
“A triumph.” —Margaret Atwood, The New York Times Book Review
“Toni Morrison’s finest work. . . . [It] sets her apart [and] displays her prodigious talent.” —Chicago Sun-Times
“Dazzling. . . . Magical. . . . An extraordinary work.” —The New York Times
“A masterpiece. . . . Magnificent. . . . Astounding. . . . Overpowering.” —Newsweek
“Brilliant. . . . Resonates from past to present.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“A brutally powerful, mesmerizing story. . . . Read it and tremble.” —People
“Toni Morrison is not just an important contemporary novelist but a major figure in our national literature.” —New York Review of Books
“A work of genuine force. . . . Beautifully written.” —The Washington Post
“There is something great in Beloved: a play of human voices, consciously exalted, perversely stressed, yet holding true. It gets you.” —The New Yorker
“A magnificent heroine . . . a glorious book.” —The Baltimore Sun
“Superb. . . . A profound and shattering story that carries the weight of history. . . . Exquisitely told.” —Cosmopolitan
“Magical . . . rich, provocative, extremely satisfying.” —Milwaukee Journal
“Beautifully written. . . . Powerful. . . . Toni Morrison has become one of America’s finest novelists.” —The Plain Dealer
“Stunning. . . A lasting achievement.” —The Christian Science Monitor
“Written with a force rarely seen in contemporary fiction. . . . One feels deep admiration.” —USA Today
“Compelling . . . . Morrison shakes that brilliant kaleidoscope of hers again, and the story of pain, endurance, poetry and power she is born to tell comes right out.” —The Village Voice
“A book worth many rereadings.” —Glamour
“In her most probing novel, Toni Morrison has demonstrated once again the stunning powers that place her in the first ranks of our living novelists.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Heart-wrenching . . . mesmerizing.” —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Shattering emotional power and impact.” —New York Daily News
“A rich, mythical novel . . . a triumph.” —St. Petersburg Times
“Powerful . . . voluptuous.” —New York
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A child is a gift which cannot be compared to any in the world, but when a child is murdered for the mother's survival, its spirit lingers on in the thoughts and nightmares of the family. Beloved by Toni Morrison is a haunting novel of a mother and daughter, their struggles to survive the shadows of their past, and the secrets that hold them back in irrefutable ways. The deeply troubled main characters and bone chilling plot takes place in a haunting setting which keeps the pages turning and the reader wanting more, even after the novel has ended. MOrrison wrote this novel with spellbounding emotion that can hadrdly be compared to any work of fiction I have ever read. Morrison's brilliant masterpiece transposes the mind of the reader into the time of the Civil War, where escaped slaves are continuously disturbed by their precedent.
There's a good reason this book won the Pulitzer Prize and is voted the #1 Work of Fiction in the last 25 Years! Amazing book and a must read!
I didn't find it confusing - but it was deep and required you to sit with it sometimes to absorb it - which also seemed to me, intentional by the writer. I loved that about it.
I saw some say it had nothing to do with slavery and I can only tell you that it has everything to do with slavery. It has to do with it's mental and physical abuse and the effects of it. All of this book is about is slavery.
One more thing I HAVE to say... One reviewer said she, Sethe, did what she did to Beloved for her own survival. ...but that's not why she did it... she did it out of love for the child.
I was very apprehensive about reading Beloved. I heard nothing but bad things about it from the people I know. So I went into it with a bad attitude. After reading the first couple chapters I understood Toni's writing style and was able to really get into it. I was never bored and I was able to put myself in the story. During one chapter I was literally breathless when it ended! It was that real. Parts of this novel are creepy, and I think that is what makes it so unique. You will feel many emotions while reading. It's a feeling that doesn't happen very much. I do have to say, I think people who know a lot about slavery will get more out of this, as it is a book about slavery. A couple things that were mentioned confused me and I had to look them up. I think this is a great book that you should not hesitate to pick up. It is extremely unique and will keep you reading!
The characters and their experiences were almost too real to bear. I don't think anyone could ever feel the horror, the pain or the fear the characters must have felt without actually having lived it or had a family member tell it. And yet there was hope and love. I'm so glad to have read it.
I thought this was one of the best books I ever read. I have seen the movie a few times and loved it, thinking this was one of Oprah Winfrey's best works. But when I read the book I could just see the characters in the movie and they were perfectly selected. I think Thandi Newton should have won an award for her portrayal of Beloved. Toni Morrison's writing is beautiful and so revealing of her characters, as well as being one of the best descriptions of slavery before and after the Civil War when it was supposed to be ended. I will keep this book for future readings as it was so exciting I couldn't put it down and hated to see it end. I am looking forward to reading more of her books which I hope are equally good, as they couldn't be better.
Overall I had a hard time with this book. It was a very slow read for me, often talking itself in circles and leaving me confused. Still, I found the story very interesting and thought provoking. I felt awful for Sethe and her family and for the trials they had to endure. Even though, as I mentioned above, I felt that the 'slavery' theme often got overshadowed, I was still struck by the awful fact that slavery did exist (still exists some places in the world) and just how awful it was. Even the "good" slave owners (of "Sweet Home" where Sethe ran from) were despicable and made me shrink in shame. It was a good book, but hard to read. I don't know how good the movie was, but if it's true enough to the book, I might recommend watching that rather than trying to push through the book. Still, it's worth reading if only to get a new insight into the world of slavery and racism that raged (and still lingers) in America and the world.
Beloved was undescribeable. Morrison's use of words to describe events and charectres in the book is gorgeous. I've read it numerous times and each time i fall inlove over and over again.
"124 was spiteful. Full of baby's venom."Summary of the BookSeethe was a slave at Sweet Home Plantation. The Garners, who own the plantation, are nice and respectful towards Seethe and the other slaves. But after Mr. Garner dies, Mrs. Garner has to bring in Schoolteacher to help. Schoolteacher and his nephews abuse a pregnant Seethe, sell the slave Paul D. and Seethe's husband, Halle, and kills Paul D.'s brothers. Seethe manages to escape to Ohio, sending her children on ahead of her to her mother-in-law's house. However, after she arrives, Schoolteacher finds her. Still badly scarred by slavery, Seethe tries to kill her children rather than see them become slaves. She succeeds in killing her toddler daughter. The other two eventually run away and all that is left is Denver, the child she was carrying when she arrived in Ohio, to house 124.Seethe is now haunted by the memory of slavery, the memory of killing her child, and the ghost of her murdered child. Paul D. shows up one day and is now living at 124 as well. Seethe is finally starting to relax and think there are things to hope for when Beloved shows up. Beloved is a 19-year-old girl who cannot remember her name or where she comes from. However, through a series of strange events over a span of time, Seethe and Denver come to believe that Beloved is Seethe's murdered daughter. Beloved's presence helps soothe Denver's loneliness, but brings back floods of locked-away painful memories for Seethe and Paul D. that they are forced to deal with. But when Beloved disappears because she has no identity, the reader is left wondering if Beloved is a real person, a medium to communicate with the dead, or a psychological invention of those in 124 to help them deal with slavery and its aftermath.Thoughts about the BookThis book was a difficult read for me. First, there was a lot of skipping around and jumping between past and present events with little or no segues, which had me a bit confused for most of the book. Second, this is another book full of very intense subject matter.There are several themes running through this book: slavery, loss, anger, identity, motherhood, and ghosts, or the supernatural. Beloved is not just another book about slavery, either. It covers very intense aspects of slavery, including sexual assault/rape and the psychological damage of slavery. Seethe and Paul D. and Beloved were physically free, but they were not mentally free of slavery. They were haunted by it constantly.Despite the challenge of the book jumping around, I found the book to be a great work of literary art. This book would make a wonderful book group selection if you have not read it. Just take a look at the questions I have off the top of my head: * Why does Seethe stay in 124 where the ghost of her murdered daughter is haunting her? * How do you create an identity for yourself after being a slave? * Is Beloved a real person, or was she a psychological invention, created to deal with the pain and loss? * Do you think Seethe still believes she made the right choice in killing her child? * What happened to Halle?
A story about how a woman's past comes back to haunt her.
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)The CCLaP 100: In which I read for the first time a hundred so-called "classics," then write reports on whether or not they deserve the labelBook #23: Beloved, by Toni Morrison (1987)The story in a nutshell:To understand the importance of 1987's Beloved, you need to understand that before this first novel of hers, author Toni Morrison was already a respected executive within the publishing industry, and a highly educated book-loving nerd; this is what made it so frustrating for her during the 1970s and '80s, after all, when trying to look back in history for older books detailing the historical black experience, and finding almost nothing there because of past industry discrimination, general withholding of education from blacks for decades, etc. This novel, then, is Morrison's attempt to partially right this wrong, loosely using a real historical record from the 1850s she once discovered when younger and obsessed upon for years, the story of a slave woman her age who once voluntarily killed her own child rather than let her be taken back to slave territory.In Morrison's case, the novel is set in the decade following the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, up in Ohio (in the northern US) where so many former slaves fled during the so-called "Reconstruction" of the American South in those years. As such, the actual plotline resembles the beginnings of what we now call "magical realism," a style that has become virtually its own new sub-genre in literary fiction in the last twenty years; because not only is this woman's house haunted by a violent poltergeist, but eventually even a young woman appears claiming to be Beloved herself, the bizarre revenge-seeking reincarnated version of the very daughter this woman killed during the Civil War years. But is she? Or is she a runaway taking chance advantage of intimate knowledge she randomly happened to learn through odd circumstances? And does it matter? Just as is the case with most great postmodern literature, Beloved actually tackles a lot of different bigger issues in a metaphorical way, perhaps the more important point altogether than the details of the magical part of the plot, which never does get fully resolved in a definitive way even by the end; it is instead a novel about love, about family, about responsibility, about the struggle between innate intelligence and a formal education. It is ultimately a book about the black experience, a sophisticated and complex look at some of the emotional issues people from that time period must've had to struggle with, Morrison writing their stories for them precisely because none of them were allowed to back then, or were given the education to express themselves in such an eloquent way; and as such, it's not really the "ghost" part of this ghost-story that is important at all, but rather that it serves as a convenient coat-rack in which to hang all these other issues.The argument for it being a classic:Well, for starters, it won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize, and when was the last time you won a Pulitzer, chump? Much more important than that, though, say its fans, it heralded a whole new sea-change in the global arts altogether; a triumphant moment for both black artists and women artists (and especially black women artists), a story that not only speaks powerfully and intimately to all people with that background, but that proves to the rest of the world that it's not just stuffy white dudes who can write beautiful, haunting, instantly classic literature. It's a major highlight of the postmodern period, say historians, a changing of the guard just as important as when the early Modernists shut down the Victorian Age; this one novel and its overwhelming success single-handedly ushered in a
a heart-wrenching story with a lot of layers. It haunted me for days. more than one read is recommended due to the rich material, numerous themes and overwhelming emotions. It is interesting that storytelling within the novel goes hand in hand with identity and bonds. When those are broken, voices are silenced. Once rediscovered, however, it is the only way to retrieve identity, rebond the family and reconnect the family with the community again. Storytelling is also a narrative tool adeptly employed by Morrison to capture a complex and sensitive period in American history, which yearns to be examined and expressed in very different voices. By letting the stories told in the views of different characters, Morrison forces us to interpret those stories in various ways, not just to discover one single truth, because, as my favorite Jewish saying goes, ¿Q: What is truer than truth? A: The Story. In short, this is a novel that's satisfying to both emotional and critical readers.
Wow!This is a powerfully moving story of an escaped slave, Sethe. This is a book about making choices when you really have none open to you. It's about forgiveness and understanding. About things better left unsaid or even forgotten. Powerful imagery of the "four horsemen of the apocalypse" highlights what slavery can do not only to the body and soul, but to the mind. Escaped slave, Sethe, lives for a short time with her mother-in-law and four children. When the owner she escaped from arrives to claim her back, she confronts a powerful need to ensure that, no matter what, her children remain free and safe. And she lives forever more with the consequences of fulfilling that need.This is a book that will stay with me forever.
Disturbing and amazing: sort of like taking a bullet in the brain and touching an angel at the same time. Mesmerizing piece of work that has the reader bewildered and enticed on every page. Grants the reader a journey into Sethe's existence as her dead daughter comes back to exact a loving "revenge" on her mother. Absolutely worth concentrating on for months and sifting through in that unforgettable literary-classic-Toni way.
This story creeped me out but I loved it and found it fascinating at the same time. Will read it again.
This book is a masterpiece. I plan to read it many times.
The book tells the story of Sethe, a runaway slave who is now living with her mother-in-law, Baby Suggs, and daughter, Denver. Present in the house also is a not-so-kind spirit whom she believed to be her deceased daughter. 9 years after Baby Suggs died, a man from Sethe's past arrived and it changed the household on Bluestone Road. I found the book to be really slow until the second half. The beginning explains what is hapenning in this particular house with bits and pieces of the past of how these people arrived at this house. The second half explores the past in depth of their previous lives and what drove them to escape and be who they are now. It is amazing what oppression can do to people. It is even more amazing to see what the combination of love and oppression will make you do. It's a sad story and like everybody else in the book, you will judge her for what she's done but if you were in her position, what would you do? The book explores both views expressed from different people and in the end, I could only hope that I will never be placed in such situation.
A powerful and dramatic novel that exmaines the perpetual pain and suffering of slavery. Sethe, an escaped slave, is forced to contend with her fractured past and try and build a life free of slavery.
My favorite of Toni Morrison, I suggest everyone read this book at some point. It is a haunting and chilling story and sometimes confusing. I definitely suggest multiple reads over a span of time in order to pick up on the many nuances.
This has a lot of potential to be a great story, but Morrison tries FAR too hard to give it all some sort of "deeper meaning," and so ultimately a lot of it just comes off as vaguely pretentious. Just write the story, Ms. Morrison. The meaningfulness will come without your trying to force profundity into every letter.
Beloved by Toni Morrison is a novel that has the themes of supernatural, slavery, and the power of the past over the present and future. The main character Sethe, kills her daughter Beloved rather than take the risk that her children will be sold back to slavery. The daughter Beloved comes back and finds Sethe as a grown woman with her daughter Denver. Other characters in the novel such as Baby Suggs, Paul D, and Stamp Paid all represent different consciences and situations in which people have escaped the torture and memory of slavery. Each character suffers from the emotional and physical scars and memories from slavery. Baby Suggs is washed out by the end of her life, while Paul D has locked away feelings to avoid anymore hurt or pain. When Beloved comes into their lives, she brings to the surface each character¿s inner fears, desires, and weaknesses. This novel examines effect of community on human nature, because throughout the whole novel, Sethe and Denver live a life isolated away from the rest of the world. The actions of Sethe separated her and her family from everyone and she lives a life alone with the knowledge that she killed her daughter.
I was given this book as a teenager and after reading a few pages quickly put it aside - perhaps it's density and maturity was too much for me then. As a school librarian, I noted it's popularity amongst our students and decided to give it another try. Wow! A truly amazing book. Not only is it beautifully written and plotted, but it is a book of weight and importance. Morrison handles it's subject matter -slavery, infantacide, ghosts - with such naturalness and skill.
Beloved is one of the those books that you curse and read anyway. The plot wanders, POV changes on a whim but there is something about this book that still fascinates me. I read it three times before I got a good grip on the plot and I'm still not sure I fully get it. Basically, the plot is that a woman is going to be captured and returned to slavery. She knows she can't get away so she decides to kill her children to keep them from the horror of that life. She only succeeds in killing one. This murdered daughter, nicknamed Beloved, haunts the rest of this woman's life. This vile act seems to poison the rest of her life. Not a book for the weak or easily frustrated but a solid read if you put the work in.
This book is remarkable in its ability to present slavery in a way that does not make it an "us vs. them" issue; whoever you are, and whatever your race, you find yourself squarely in the characters' shoes. And these shoes are so varied that no one individual in the book paints slavery as a caricature. The reader is thus buoyed back and forth between different perspectives: what is it like to be the white slave owner who treats slaves like "men?" The one who worked for his mother's freedom? The mother who got the freedom and didn't understand why? The slave who ran away and made it on her own? The slave who tried to run away and didn't make it? The child who has to live with her mother's past even without understanding it?Part of the reason this book is so remarkable at posing these questions is that it takes a premise that seems as if it would have to be fiction and treats it as if it is not. In the end, a few characters ask themselves if they really saw what they thought they saw, and if it really was what everybody said it was. Morrison knows, however, that "what' and "whether" is not what matters; what matters is "how." How do characters respond, emotionally, psychologically, to the things they think are happening in the world around them? How does that response change when their perception of things changes? It is this dynamic aspect of the characters that allows the reader to become them, all of them, one at a time, with each twist in the narrative. There is no static stereotyping here; and thus the reader is able to hear the characters' own thoughts and think to him- or herself, "if I thought this were true, wouldn't I believe that too?" Morrison's ability to draw readers into that frame of mind through a truly imaginative narrative concept are what make this book a classic.
This story IS based on actual events (Morrison learned of an escaped slave killing her children from an 1850's era newspaper). However, the novel is incoherent and confusing. Narration flips from character to character with no transition, entire chapters are written in stream-of-consciousness, by the end you're so turned off by the style that you're dismissive of the substance. Very disappointing.
A chilling look into the horrors of slavery. It brings slavery back to the individuals who were affected by it. It gives them their stories back, as too often slavery is told in a way that strips it of it's individual hurts and pains. This novel deserves all of the praise it gets and very little of the criticism it receives. Deeply complex, beautiful, ugly, painful, awakening... all words you can use to describe this novel. This novel is not for the close-minded.