Beloved is a novel set in Ohio several years after the Civil War. The book focuses on characters that struggle fruitlessly to keep their painful recollections of the past at bay. The whole story revolves around issues of race, gender, the black community, and the supernatural. The focus of this paper is going to be on how these things were affected by the emancipation of the slaves and the reconstruction period, the time in which the story is placed.
The story concentrates on events arising from the Fugitive Slave Act, it describes the unspeakable consequences of an escape from slavery for Sethe, her children and Paul D. The story line begins many years after Sethe’s break for freedom, and it gradually persuades the reader to accept the haunting of 124 Bluestone Road by a two 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. The parts open with statements as to indicate the progress of the haunting, from the ghost 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 last for the next 100 years.
The dynamics of the story attempt to distance the reader from direct exposure to the extremes of the real horror contained in the storyline. The novel moves around from place to place, from the past to the present. This style of writing is necessary to understand the psychological and emotional state of the characters. Reading this story is a lot like hearing a story being told. Events that occurred during and after Sethe’s freedom are slowly placed together as the novel goes on.
Sethe needs to remember her past in order to rebuild her identity: “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). These types of memories help Sethe to keep her senses. Without these memories to keep things in perspective she would surely go insane.
Morrison moves around to each character giving each a chance to express their perception of events to the reader, Baby Suggs portrayal of her grandchild’s murder is a great example. “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. “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 this novel. 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 happened in most cases. This novel is about emotions and perceptions of African Americans and the burden of sorrow that they have inherited from being treated like animals. The violation begins at the moment of capture, when the native Africans were forcefully