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Beloved Essay, Research Paper

Toni Morrison’s Beloved focuses on the characters struggle to hold their horrific memories of the past away from their present life. The novel spans two generations and three decades leading up to the 19th century and uses the element of time to its advantage. Activities in the story are not to be simply told or described, the effort was needed to withdraw the reader from direct exposure to the shocking events that the characters were forced to face. The story consistently jumps from place to place and from past to present. This complex chronology, however, adds to the overall effectiveness of the work as a whole. It gives an effect of a mother telling her story to her children; the emotions can be felt and related to by the reader. Morrison shows us that the use of chronology can have a profound effect on the reader.

Throughout the novel, events before and during the years of Sethe’s freedom are gradually uncovered and put together to complete the mystery in her life. The story would often jump to the past, or mention it to fill in the gaps of Sethe’s past. A few years ago, Denver saw a white dress kneeling next to Sethe while she was praying. To Denver, the dress seemed alive, almost wrapping it’s arms around Sethe’s waist. Her mother explained to her, “Some things go. Pass on. 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 my rememory, but out there, in the world.” (Pg. 35-36) References to the past come often, and is an important theme of the novel. It builds on each characters need to stop denying their past and to accept it, a significant stage to pass.

The author directs her attention to various characters – Sethe, Denver, Paul D, Beloved, Baby Suggs, and Stamp Paid – of different time frames to display their opinions on the events of the novel. Baby Suggs, Sethe’s mother, is a character of the past. A jump back to the past shows her horror at the murder of her grandchild. Sethe had just attempted to murder all her children, but only successful in killing one. Suggs bathes them cleaning their cuts and wounds and talking to the Lord. “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.” (Pg. 152) The murder of Sethe’s child, supposedly Beloved, plays a great role in the novel. Only through the use of past events can the reader truly grasp the emotions felt by all.

Morrison adds in new information of the past every few pages. As Sethe is fixing Denver’s hair, Beloved asks about Sethe’s mother. Sethe explains that she rarely saw her mother and then goes on to tell about Nan. She was another slave woman on the same ship as Sethe’s mother, and was the one who pulled Sethe away when her mother was hung. Nan tells her, “She threw them all away but you. The one from the crew she threw away on the island. The others from more whites she also threw away… You she gave the name of the black man… I am telling you, small girl Sethe.” (Pg. 62) History often gives a reason for an action. In this case, Sethe’s murder of her daughter can be related to her mother’s throwing away of her white children. One mother did it for hate of the white men, and the other did it for love of her children.

The novel ends with Beloved gone and things almost the way it was when Paul D first arrived. He tells her that, “me and you, we got more yesterday than anybody. We need some kind of tomorrow.” (Pg. 273) The essence of Beloved is based on “yesterday” and the manipulation of chronology provided for a much greater understanding of the story.


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