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Beloved by Toni Morrison

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Thisbe De Rycke

on 10 June 2014

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Transcript of Beloved by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison
- °1931, Lorain, Ohio
- Née Chloe Wofford
- Writer & professor
- 1993: Nobel Prize Literature
- 1988: Pullitzer Prize for
- 1987:

> inspired by true events:

Toni Morrison
Beloved, The Film
The Foreword
Morrison, 2004: xv - xix
A presentation about


Toni Morrison

Thisbe De Rijcke, Guido De Wilde & Lisa Vandenbossche
Margaret Garner
To render enslavement as a personal experience, language must get out of the way
- Toni Morrison

January 28, 1856
Robert & Margaret fled to Cincinatti, Ohio

Uncle Joe Kite
- Asked Levi Coffin for help
- Slave catchers found them
- Robert fired a few shots
- Margaret killed 2-year-old daughter
Forced into slavery
- Archibald K. Gaines in Kentucky, found in Louisville
- Slaves deported to Arkansas
March 11, 1856
- The Liberator
: "
Henry Lewis
- 9-month-old baby drowns
- Margaret & Robert to New Orleans
- Then to Mississipi
- Margaret dies of typhoïd fever


1) Toni Morrison
2) History Behind the Novel
3) Foreword by Morrison
4) Film
5) Close reading: "enslavement"
6) Close reading: "enslavement as a personal experience"
7) Close reading: "language must get out of the way"
8) Beloved, the Character
9) Conclusion
10) Discussion

"Slave mother murders her child rather than see it returned to slavery"
The Liberator
February 2, 1856 issue of the Anti-Slavery Bugle
"Never marry again in slavery, but to live in hope of freedom."
- “what ‘free’ could possibly mean to women”

- “historically true in essence, but not strictly factual in order to relate her history to contemporary issues about freedom, responsibility, and women’s ‘place’”

- “assume the consequences of choosing infanticide; claim her own freedom.”

- “the figure most central to the story would have to be her, the murdered, not the murderer, the one who lost everything and had no say in any of it.”

- "make the slave experience intimate"

- "the effort to forget would be threatened by memory desperate to stay alive."

- "To render enslavement as a personal experience, language must get out of the way. "
"To render enslavement as a personal experience, language must get out of the way"
"To render enslavement
as a personal experience,
language must get out of the way"
-Foreword: varying degrees of intimacy (gender-related experiences of slavery, contemporary notions of freedom approached from a historical perspective, elaboration of a historical events on a personal level)

-Different viewpoints within the story represented by means of different characters

-Different generations: ex-slaves (Sethe , Paul D), but also their children (Denver) who know slavery only through their parents

"To render enslavement as a personal
must get out of the
-Unusual, poetic language use throughout the novel

-Great importance of certain words, especially "Beloved", which has multiple meanings

-Different viewpoints represented by means of personal expressions and ways of talking

-Chapters written from the points of views of Sethe, Denver and Beloved respectively: unusual employment of punctuation, cryptic descriptions of events
How did you interpret the character
of Beloved?
What struck you about Morrison's language use?
Close readings: enslavement,
personal experience and language
Different readings:
- slavery
- personal aspect
- language use
"To render
as a personal experience, language must get out of the way"
"To render enslavement as
a personal
, language must get out of the

-Different sexes: female (Sethe, Denver, Beloved) and male (Paul D, Halle, Sixo, ...)

-Particular belief systems connected to slavery

-Possibly, even slavery’s influence on a dead individual is shown

-Various flashbacks concerning the lives of slaves: the violation of Sethe, Paul D’s experiences in a chain gang, Denver’s birth…

-Slavery in the traditional sense of
the word

-Sethe's enslavement before the
onset of the story, represented
physically (scars)

-Paul D: memories of his
experiences as a slave (the chain gang)

-Paul A, Sixo: deceased during an
attempt to escape slavery
-Slavery in the symbolical sense of
the word: something that restrains
(any form) of liberty

-Sethe: enslaved by traumatic memories

-Paul D: also enslaved by traumatic memories

-Denver: enslaved by the experiences of
her mother (and her grandmother), which cause her to fear the outside world and
keep her from leaving 124)

Beloved, the Character
-Language as a theme/ motif:
the headstone, Beloved's limited language capabilities

-Language as a means of representing particular belief systems

-Language as a means of retaining or escaping the past: "rememory", "disremember"
1) What did you find special about Morrison's language use in the novel?

2) How did you interpret the character of Beloved? Is she a ghost? A real girl? Or a symbol of the past haunting the present?
Stands for the personal experience

Limited language capability

Different representations = Different personal experiences
As a real person
- Locked up
- Elizabeth E. House: mistaken identity?

Personal experience = missing family
Sethe's daughter
- Limited lingual ability
- Age
- Name baby's tombstone
- Newly born
- Hume
- Scar

Personal experience = murder
Sethe's mother
- Memories of passage (Africa to America)
- Manner of speaking and perpetual smile
- Switched places

Personal experience = passage from Africa to America
- Beloved = collective of personal experiences

- Personal reaches universal

- Allegorical figure

- Past returned to haunt the present

- Catharsis
Opera Libretto, 2007, New York production
"To render enslavement as a personal experience, language must get out of the way."
- Language - Fact - Fiction

- "Novel": fiction + fact

- Beloved: fiction or fact?
Full transcript