Beloved is a novel set in Ohio during 1873, several years after the Civil War. The book centers on characters who struggle fruitlessly to keep their painful recollections of the past at bay. The whole story revolves around issues of race, gender, family relationships and the supernatural, covering two generations and three decades up to the 19th century. Concentrating on events arising from the Fugitive Slave Act of 1856, it describes the horrendous consequences of an escape from slavery for Sethe, her children and Paul D.
The narrative begins 18 years after Sethe's break for freedom, and it gradually persuades the reader to accept the haunting of 124 Bluestone Road by a 2 year old child, killed by her mother Sethe: Full of baby's venom. The women in the house knew it and so did the children...by 1873 Sethe and her daughter Denver were its only victims (Page 1). The novel is divided into three parts. Each part opens with statements as to indicate the progress of the haunting--from the poltergeist to the materialized spirit to the final freeing of both the spirit and Sethe; Part I: 124 WAS SPITEFUL (Page 1); Part II: 124 WAS LOUD(Page 169); Part III: 124 WAS QUIET (Page 239). These parts reflect the progressive reconciliation of a betrayed child and her desperate mother. Overall symbolizing the gradual acceptance of freedom and the enormous work and continuous struggle that would persist for the next 100 years.
The dynamics of the story attempt to distance the reader from an immediate and direct exposure to the extremes of the real horror contained in the narrative. The narrative jumps from one setting to another, from the past to the present. However, the complex chronology is necessary to understand the psychological and emotional state of all the participants in the story. Reading the story resembles listening to a story. This peculiar oral style surfaces; it feels as if the novel is speaking the emotions of each character out loudly, allowing the reader to identify with each one.
Events that occurred prior and during the 18 years of Sethe's freedom are slowly revealed and pieced together throughout the novel. Ever so painfully, Sethe is in need of rebuilding her identity and remembering the past and her origins: Some things just stay. I used to think it was my rememory. You know. Some things you forget. Other things you never do. But it's not. Places, places, are still there. If a house burns down it's gone, but the place--the picture of it--stays, and not just in rememory, but out there in the world (Page 35).
The author moves around the characters allowing each participant in the story a turn--Baby Suggs, Paul D, Stamp Paid, Denver, Sethe and Beloved--to convey their perceptions of events to the reader. Baby Suggs' horror at her grandchild's murder is passionately displayed: Baby Suggs had got the boys inside and was bathing their heads, rubbing their hands, lifting their lids, whispering, 'Beg your pardon, I beg your pardon,' the whole time (Page 152). Within this horror, the insensitivity of her landlord is shown when Baby Suggs is approached by her landlord's kids regarding fixing some shoes, not knowing and not caring to know they just give her the shoes: Baby Suggs ... She took the shoes from him...saying, 'I beg your pardon. Lord, I beg your pardon. I sure do (Page 153). Paul D's memories of Sweet Home are remembered to confront his and Sethe's past: Paul D smiled then, remembering the bedding dress. Sethe was thirteen when she came to Sweet Home and already iron-eyed (Page 10). These various voices act as witnesses to Sethe's experiences and showing how black women had no control over their husbands, children or own bodies.
Racial issues are one of the main issues in Beloved. The story revolves around the life of a former slave and her attempts to get on with her life as best as she can considering what the white slave owners have put her through. The cruelties of the slaves by the slave owners in this story are probably conservative compared to what really occurred in many cases. This
Topics Related to April 19th, 1996
Beloved, Women and death, Sethe, Suggs, Slavery
Essays Related to April 19th, 1996
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