A Man For All SeasonsToni Morrison’s Beloved Summary When the slave-girl Sethe is 13, she arrives at the plantation “Sweet Home”, where she gets married to Halle and has three children with him. After the farm is overtaken by a cruel master, the slaves try to escape, but they are caught and punished severely.
Sethe suffers an act of abuse by two white boys andescapes in the woods, where she gives birth to her fourth child. After a short period of recovering in the free states, her former owner tries to recapture her, which drives her in the attempt to kill her children, resulting in the death of one daughter. Finding releasefrom the death-penalty, she ends up living alone with her daughter in a haunted house. When Paul D, a former slave and friend of Sethe returns, the ghost, Sethe’s murdered child, is not finally successful in drivig him away, so she disappears herself.
— Cultural Milieu “Beloved” is based on an ex-slave that is living with the haunting memories of her past. The book tells of Sethe’s desire to kill her children rather than to have her and themreturned to slavery. She did not want to see them have to experience the same evils thatshe and her husband had experienced at the hands of her former owner Schoolteacher. Sethe knew that the beatings, raping, and abuse of her and her people was wrong and shewould have rather killed her children than to let them return to that inhumane form oflife.
This book also shows how one man’s desire to do right by another man only hindersthe already strained relationship he is involved in with Sethe. This book shows the realityand the inner workings of the Underground Railroad. Sethe’s home was a way point forthat railroad until Baby Suggs’ death and Sethe’s killing of her newborn baby “Beloved”. At that point it tells of another fundamental belief amongst people, and that is one ofspirits and ghosts.
Biography——————————————————————————– Toni Morrison(ChloeWofford) was born on Feb. 18, 1931 in Lorain, Ohio. She was born the granddaughter ofa former slave. Her grandfather traveled north from Alabama to settle in Ohio, by way ofKentucky. Her father’s upbringing was during one of the most murderous times for blacksin American history.
She was raised in a household which was heavily influenced byslavery and white supremacist’ fears, as well as the need for education. Morrison’s writingstyle stems from having fallen in love with words. From that love she inspires youngwriters, and also people like Muhammad Ali and Angela Davis. What the Critics Said”Beloved” is a wonderful story about the lives of a former slave and her remainingdaughter. I shall hail this book as quite possibly one of the best books I’ve read in a while. This tale was able to weave history, fears, ghosts, and the reality of 19th century life allinto one dramatic tale best read with a compassionate eye.
Michiko Kakutani of the NYTimes wrote “there is a contemporaneous quality to time past and time present as well asa sense that the lines between reality and fiction, truth and memory have becomeinextricably blurred”. She goes onto say “This is a dazzling novel. ” Margaret Atwood said”If there were any doubts about her stature as a pre-eminent American novelist, of herown or any other generation, “Beloved” will put them to rest”. She also goes on to say”An epigraph to a book is like a key signature in music, and “Beloved” is written inmajor”.
Excerpts from the Novel This excerpt is related to the topic of discrimination inslavery and the injustice which has happened. Chronologically, the excerpt takes placewhen Stamp Paid tells Paul D. that Sethe once tried to kill all of her children. Stamp hasa newspaper that contains an article about the killing, but Paul D. does not believe itstruth, because there is only one reson a slave would be in a newspaper. “A whip of fearbroke through the heart chambers as soon as you saw a Negro’s face in a paper, since theface was not there because the person had been killed, or maimed or caught or burned orjailed or whipped or evicted or stomped or raped or cheated, since that could hardlyqualify as news in a newspaper.
” Literary Elements Theme The theme of Beloved isrevealed in the first few pages of the novel as Sethe wants to leave her house as well asthe pain within it. Her mother-in-law, Baby Suggs tells her that “not a house in thecountry ain’t packed to the rafters with some dead Negro’s grief. ” Running from grief willlead to more of the same, but by staying and facing the pain, wounds that have beeninflicted can begin to heal through grace. The grace of laughter, dance, and tears allowsthe worst of the grief to pass through the “trembling red heart” and then be forgotten.
——————————————————————————– Setting The physicalsetting of the novel Beloved is a farmhouse known only as 124, situated on BluestoneRoad, outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. Sethe and her daughter, Denver, have lived in thishouse for eighteen years. The story begins in the year 1873, but there are manyflashbacks to the year Sethe attempted to run away, which is in 1856, four years beforethe start of the Civil War. Sethe, Paul D. , and Baby Suggs were all slaves on the samefarm in Kentucky, which was ironically named Sweet Home, though for them, it wasneither home nor sweet. ——————————————————————————–Plot The plot of the novel is loosely based upon the life of a former slave namedMargaret Garner, who tried to kill all of her children when they were captured by herslave owner, and she did succeed in killing one.
When the novel begins, Sethe and herdaughter, Denver, are living with the ghost of the baby Sethe killed when she was aboutto be recaptured. After another former slave, Paul D. , arrives, he chases away the ghost,but soon a young woman named Beloved comes to Sethe’s home. This woman isstrangely similar to Sethe’s dead daughter, which is ironic because the word “Beloved” isthe only word engraved on her baby’s tombstone, though it is never entirely clear if thewoman truly is the baby’s ghost turned to flesh. ——————————————————————————– Characters The women inBeloved are the stronger characters of the story because they are the ones who stay,despite their past.
The men, however, have to run from it. When Sethe is raped by the”nephews,” she still finds the courage to move beyond the pain and her fear. Herhusband, Halle, only witnesses the rape and this is enough to drive him to smearing butteron his face from the insanity, never again capable of facing Sethe. Paul D. runs for morethan eighteen years from his memories.
Even Sethe’s sons run when they can stand nomore of their fears. Baby Suggs withstood the agony of a lifetime of slavery and therealization of freedom, just to watch her daughter-in-law kill her grandchildren. Thoughshe became weary, even in the “marrow of her bones,” she remained because she and theother women knew what the men did not, which was that they had to “lay down thesword and the shield by the river” in order to swim through the pain. ——————————————————————————– Irony When Sethe runsaway from from her owners, she vows that neither she nor her four children will ever beforced into slavery again. However, when her owner finds her, Sethe chooses to kill herchildren, because she could not allow her children to be owned or sold.
This is ironicbecause Sethe is actually committing the ultimate act of ownership by taking from herchildren the freedom to decide for themselves whether to live or die. Though Setheknows that, as a slave, “life was dead,” her children had the right to discover this forthemselves.