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'Beloved' Major Works Data Sheet
Transcript of 'Beloved' Major Works Data Sheet
by Sam Gentry, DeAnna Stinnett and Tevie Milburn Setting Symbols Old A.P. Questions Characters Toni Morrison's Style Imagery Plot Summary Characteristics of the genre Historical Significance Biographical Information Beloved by Toni Morrison was published in 1987
and is a contemporary novel. As a contemporary novel, Beloved also resembles the ghost story, a mystery, and a work of historical fiction. Morrison's novel is steeped in popular black culture, its music and folklore. Her novels juxtapose and combine joy and pain, laughter and tears, and love and death. These same combinations are the essence of blues, jazz, spirituals. The tradition of black female writers is also a strong factor-- Phyllis Wheatley and Lucy Terry (1st published black females in America who were also slaves), Zora Neale Hurston (Harlem Renaissance) and Maya Angelou and Alice Walker (Women's Rights Movement and Black Rights Movement). She relies heavily on both oral tradition, and the slave narrative. Writing in the 20th century, Toni Morrison's purpose is still a corrective one: the history of slavery must not be forgotten. Her purpose is to 'fill in the blankis that the traditional slave narrative left.' Toni Morrison was born Chloe Ardelia Wofford on February 18th, 1931 in Lorain, Ohio-- her parents were Ramah and George Wofford, two working class black citizens. In 1949, Morrison entered Howard University and received her BA in English in 1953. She then went on to earn a Master of Arts degree in English from Cornell University. In 1958, she married Harold Morrison, a Jamaican architect who worked with her at Howard University; they have two children, Harold and Slade, and are believed to be married still. She has written many other important works, such as The Bluest Eye, Sula and Song of Solomon. Her most successful work 'Beloved' earned her the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. After receiving her degree, she became an English instructor at Texas University, eventually returning to Howard University to teach English. Afterwards, Morrison taught two branches at the State University in New York, where she still resides. The main character, Sethe, was born into slavery and worked most of her life at a farm in Pulaski County, Kentucky called Sweet Home. After a traumatic event occurs and she is violated and beaten, Sethe sends her children to Ohio and escapes while pregnant. On her journey to freedom, she meets a strange white woman named Amy Denver who helps deliver her baby and inspires Sethe to name her child Denver. Sethe and Denver cross the Ohio River with the aid of Stamp Paid, another important character. She arrives at her mother-in-law, Baby Suggs, house-- 124 Bluestone Road. After 28 days of freedom, Sethe's slavemaster, Schoolteacher, comes to recollect his property. Panicking, Sethe gathers her children and attempts to murder them all, but is only successful with her firstborn daughter. 18 years after this, what is called '' The Misery," Baby Suggs is dead and Denver and her mother live a secluded life in the now run-down 124. The abode is haunted by the spirit of her murdered child, who causes destruction and further isolates them from the community. One day, an old friend from Sweet Home, Paul D, turns up on Sethe's porch and they rekindle their friendship in a much more romantic way. Denver is off-put by the arrival, even more so when Paul D runs the ghost out of 124. After returning from a carnival in town, Sethe, Paul D and Denver discover a strange lady outside of their home. She reveals herself to be called "Beloved," which is the engraving on the dead child's grave. Beloved stays at 124 and continues to behave in a very unnatural manner, like that of a child. Denver and Sethe have an instant connection with her, but Paul D senses that there is something wrong with her. Eventually, his suspicions are confirmed when she attempts to seduce him and ultimately forces him to have sex with her. Paul D continues to feel guilt over this and, after finding out about " The Misery," leaves Sethe. Beloved becomes the focal point of Sethe and Denver's life and Sethe eventually comes to the conclusion that Beloved is the reincarnation of her dead daughter. After this realization, she devotes all her time, money and energy to pleasing Beloved, while neglecting Denver. Denver seeks help after seeing the detrimental effects this has on her mother and her desperation leads the women in the community to rally together to save Sethe. Following their intervention, Beloved disappears and is eventually forgotten. Paul D returns to 124 and Denver begins her own life. Morrison uses the present tense throughout Beloved, although the narrative spans a period of some fifty years. Moreover, the readers are often denied vital knowledge. The shifting voice of the narrator, which flits in and out of different characters' thoughts, conveys a similar process of "defamiliarisation" for the reader. In Section Two, there are four sections that represent the interior monologues of Sethe, Denver, and Beloved. The language in these sections are highly repetitive and circular. This style is called stream of consciousness. She plays with repetition, a musical device, repeating memories and images. She uses numerous metaphors that are self-reflexive, referring a context and experiences already established by the novel. A. The Dehumanization of Slaves:
Schoolteachers instructions to his pupils to list the slave's animal characteristics.
The nephew's nursing of Sethe's breasts.
Paul D's punishment of the bit.
Paul D's experience with the chain-gang in Alfred, Georgia.
The measuring of Sethe's behind at Sweet Home. Sethe - mother - kills her daughter so she would not be a slave
Beloved - “reincarnated daughter” “Sethe’s dead mother”- symbol of reconciliation and guilt; causes unrest in 124
Denver - youngest daughter of Sethe- represents growth that freedom can cause
Paul D - slave with Sethe- distraction from Beloved, companion for Sethe
Baby Suggs - Halle’s mother, grandmother, preacher- voice of reason, and cause for the Misery
Stamp Paid - bringer of freedom to Sethe- shows Paul D the newspaper clipping that unravels the family
Ella - worked for the underground railroad- leader of intervention for Sethe and Beloved
Lady Jones - teacher- helps Denver provide for her family
Mr. Garner - former slave owner of Sweet Home- gives slaves some human characteristics
Mrs. Garner - wife of Mr. Garner- gives Sethe diamond earrings
Schoolteacher - new owner of Sweet Home- takes Sethe’s milk, reason for the Misery
The Bodwins - help free slaves- help Denver in her time of need and bring Sethe back to sanity
Halle - Sethe’s husband- is absent until news of the butter incident
Sixo - slave with Sethe, Halle and Paul D- laughs while dying
Amy Denver - delivers Denver- saves Sethe’s life Beloved is set during an appalling period in America's history: the years before, during, and immediately after the Civil War. After the Civil War ended, life was still dreadful for black people, whether slaves or freed. While the action of novel covers only a brief time, by use of flashback approximately 50 years is covered. Although other places are mentioned, the two major settings are Sweet Home in Kentucky and 124 Bluestone Road outside Cincinnati, Ohio. Beloved has been listed on Question # 3 the following years: 1990, 1999, 2002 (B), and 2003. A. The cotton gin, invented by Eli Whitney in 1793, is an apparatus that quickly and easily separates cotton fibers from their seeds. This eliminated the painstaking task of separating them by hand; however, it also resulted in the growth of slave dependence due to the rapid expansion of the cotton industry. Therefore, it is said to have contributed to the outbreak of the Civil War. B. Margaret Garner was a slave during the Pre-Civil War era who became notorious-- and somewhat infamous-- for killing her own child under the threat of capture. Her bold act influenced Toni Morrison so much that it was the basis for this novel. C. The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was passed by Congress in an attempted compromise between the Northern and Southern states. This law stated that all runaway slaves were to be returned to their masters upon capture. D. The Supreme Court decision of 1857, commonly known as the Dred Scott case, was a landmark decision of U.S. Supreme Court. The decision stated that the federal government did not have the power to regulate slavery in the territories and that people of African heritage were not protected by the Constitution, nor were they considered U.S. citizens. E. The Emancipation Proclamation was a military order issued by President Lincoln in 1863. It was not a law passed by Congress, but instead based on the President's authority as commander in chief of the armed forces. The law stated that all slaves in Confederate territory were to be free. While the law did not actually abolish slavery, it lifted the spirits of the slaves and encouraged more daring escapes. F. The Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude unless it is for the punishment of a legitimate crime. It was officially adopted on December 6th, 1865. This amendment made permanent the abolition of slavery set forth in the Emancipation Proclamation. G. The Ku Klux Klan, otherwise known as the KKK, began in Pulaski, Tennessee in 1865 under the direction of 6 Confederate veterans. The Klan targeted freed slaves and their allies and looked to restore the pre-war trend of white supremacy. They used tactics such as threats and violence against those who disagreed with them, including Republicans. H. The Reconstruction refers to the period of time after the Civil War when the federal government sought to return the country, particularly the south, to their former glory. At the same time, they guaranteed rights to the newly freed African Americans, such as the right to vote in 1867. B. Naming:
Baby Sugg's forced title of "Jenny."
Paul A, Paul D and Paul F's shared names.
Denver's namesake that helped deliver her in the Ohio River.
Stamp Paid's change of his slave name.
All of the Sweet Home slaves having the last name "Garner". C. The Mother Figure:
Sethe's determination to reach her children.
Baby Sugg's attachment to her closest son, Halle.
Sethe's brief experience with her own mother.
Denver's maternal need to care for Beloved.
Sethe's obsession with Beloved after the conclusion that she is her dead daughter. D. Community and Family:
The community's disdain for Baby Suggs after the feast.
The community's refusal to warn Sethe about Schoolteacher's arrival.
The sense of family between Paul D, Sethe and Denver during the carnival.
The willingness of community to step in when they discovered that Sethe and Denver were in need.
Sethe's contentedness with life and her family after the realization of Beloved's identity. E. The Burden of the Past:
Sethe's "chokecherry tree" scar.
Paul D's tobacco tin.
Beloved's scars on her forehead and throat.
Denver's obsession with her birth.
Stamp Paid's newspaper clipping that he shows Paul D. F. Water/Liquids:
Beloved's appearance out of the water.
Beloved's memory of 'the face she lost' in the water.
The blood that Denver drank along with her mother's milk.
The flavored milk Denver, Sethe and Beloved drank after the ice skating.
The spit that Beloved dribbled, which reminded Sethe of her crawling already? girl. 1. Sethe's Milk:
Symbolizes the life she gives to others that is insignificant to the powerful people in control-- the people that stole her milk for nothing but torture. Sethe’s milk is all she feels she has to give to her children that are completely hers; represents the minute things that people will cling to when they have nothing else 2. The chokecherry tree:
Physical representation of the burden of escaping a life of suffering; only found in the north; a tree never seen before by Sethe, nor even the scar on her own back. Represents the price she paid for her freedom. 3. Water:
Symbolic of renewal, rebirth and the miracle of life; Beloved appears from out of the water, Denver was miraculously born in the water, Paul D and Sethe are reunited when Sethe has water all over her legs. Represents Beloved’s journey through life and time. 4. Paul D's tobacco tin:
Symbolizes his heart, closed and hard, unable to be opened. Prevents him from loving “thickly” the way Sethe does, is resistant to his deepest urges and is rusted and weathered from years of abuse. Represents the closed-off isolation people will adopt when they have nothing in the world to depend on. Explanation of Biblical Allusions 1) 28:
Ecclesiastes, in the chapter 3 verses 2 to 8, enumerates 28 "times" in these 7 verses: There is a time for giving birth and a time for dying, for planting and for uprooting what has been planted, to kill and heal, to destroy and build, to cry and laughter, to mourn and dance, to throw stones away and to gather them, to embrace and to refrain from embracing, to search and lose, to keep and discard, to tear and sew, for keeping silent and to speak, to love and to hate, and finally a time for war and a time for peace.
28 days of happiness between freedom and the Misery. Time is a big component in the novel, specifically the past. The past pain is repeated with the Misery and the past is brought back with Beloved. There was a time to remember and a time to forgive. But forgiveness is temporary, just like Beloved. Sethe didn't forgive the community, so she shut them out. But there is a time for everything, even joining together in the hope of how it used to be, like the carnival. There is also a time to love, which Sethe doesn’t understand, because her love is “too thick”. Paul D doesn't get his time right in hating seethe when she reveals the worst about herself. Explanation of Biblical Allusions 2) Romans 9:25:
The novel opens with the following inscription:
I will call them my people,
which were not my people;
And her beloved,
which was not beloved
This reference comes from the Epistle to the Romans, a book of the New Testament written by Apostle Paul. As he prepares to visit Rome, he sends a letter stating his beliefs. He discusses the nature of God’s relationship with humanity and focuses on the sovereignty of God. He also raises the problem of the justice of God, power mixed with mercy, even if it leads to problems. This chapter, despite its examination of the evils on Earth, ends with a note of reconciliation.
The word “beloved” is one obvious connection to the book, in that Beloved is the murdered daughter that comes back. In a way, her coming back is an opportunity for Sethe to gain reconciliation for her sin and start to heal her huge burden. We see power mixed with mercy in the action of Beloved’s death in that Sethe took it upon herself to save Beloved from hardship. This also suggests that Beloved is not who she is. Neither is the peace they find in the novel permanent, but leads to a bigger suffering.
Explanation of Biblical Allusions 3) Lot’s Wife
When Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, Lot’s wife was warned not to look back. When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, ‘Arise, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be consumed in punishment of the city.’ But he lingered; so the men seized him and his wife, and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him forth, they said, ‘Flee for your life; do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley; flee to the hills lest you be consumed.’
Lot’s wife is mentioned when Paul D is facing beloved wanting an intimate connection with someone. He says that he feels like Lot’s wife in that if he does this, he will be lost forever. And he is, because he loses what kept him sane- his tobacco tin around his heart. Since he feels the same desire to want to be connected with someone, he is lost too; just like Beloved. She wants the attention from Sethe that Paul D is getting.
Explanation of Biblical Allusions 4) Pride
Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18
On page 202, Stamp Paid mentions “pride goeth before a fall” when he is describing the communities influence on him. It makes sense, because pride is what keeps Sethe from interacting with the public after the Misery. Stamp says that it is that statement that keeps him from realizing the effect that what he tells Paul D might have on Sethe and especially Denver. This quote is directly correlated with the events in the novel. Suggs takes pride in her feast, the Misery happens. Sethe is confident that Paul D will never leave, he calls her an animal.
Themes The effects of dehumanization The thickness of love The price of freedom The morality of murder