Both The Plague and Beloved are books that gained excellent reputation. They both portray some of the sufferings of humans with one focusing on a plague whilst the other focuses on slavery. The Plague has the form of a chronicle, the journal of an event as it occurs, day by day or time period by time period. The author is therefore able to select, separate and connect elements into what he/she thinks is a meaningful pattern.
On the other hand, Beloved by Toni Morrison tells of a story in not the usual linear tale but rather, in fragments, thus forcing readers to consider the worth of each and piece them back together bit by bit. In my opinion, I think that chronological order is not the most convincing way to convey a story or an idea because it doesn’t leave a vivid marking in one’s mind. Each story consists of various parts including the conflict, climax, and themes and they are not best portrayed in chronological order.Order now
Every story has a conflict no matter how it is told. Readers are usually taken on a rollercoaster ride in which he/she can only guess the next part of the ride until the very end. In The Plague, the protagonists are all of the citizens of Oran who fight against the antagonist: the plague. Chronological order leads the audience step by step into the plot as if it’s leading a child across a park. This of course allows the audience to take in information at a slow pace but it immediately opens a door for the readers to speculate the next part.
For example, in the beginning of the novel, the authorities do not heed the plague’s approach and even encourage its spread by delaying precautionary measures. A lot of people will be able to guess that not long after that, the town will be declared to be in quarantine and that many people will panic. This plot has occurred many times and the most recent and real example would be the one of Japan. Instead of a plague, Japan was hit by numerous natural disasters and now the citizens are all struggling to continue to live.
In contrast, the reader is only given a jigsaw frame to start with in Beloved. As the novel unfolds, pieces are given to the reader and he/she must place it in the correct order before moving on. At the end, the reader will finally get a complete picture which most likely will resemble a mosaic that speaks for the 60 million of more slaves that have died in the past. This technique may be hard for a lot of readers to follow but nonetheless it achieves its spectacular result.
This story is fiction and is actually similar to the information that a history book will provide. However, only because the book has not been told in a chronological order that the reader is allowed to participate in the story, in contrast to being told the story straight on. This pulls readers to become narrators and piece the puzzle in any way he/she pleases, not only making the book more interesting, but also allows readers to share with one another their different interpretations. By doing that, people cannot argue with one another as to how the story should have ended as everyone’s thoughts can be correct.
Due to the chronological ordering of events, the reader can only think of two climaxes. Either the plague wipes out the entire town and spreads to other countries, or it suddenly dies down and the world is free again. The one and only climax in The Plague occurs in Part 5, when the town of Oran is finally declared free of the plague and that the gates are to be reopened. Books tend to have good if not happy endings so by the end of the book, a lot of readers would have already got to that conclusion. Quoting from Leonardo Da Vinci, “Nature sends forth frequently certain noisome and pestilential vapours and continual plagues upon the vast accumulations and herds of animals and especially upon human beings who increase very rapidly because other animals do not feed upon them.” What this basically implies is similar to that of Paneloux’s sermons. God, or mother nature, sends plagues upon humans once in a while in order to stop us from dominating the planet. The lead on to this climax is like repeating the cycle of life where we live and will eventually die.
In the case of Beloved, the novel flows through two different stories, one via flashbacks and one in the novel’s present so there are actually two climaxes. The first peak of the flashback plot takes place in Chapter 16, where we finally get the full picture of the death of Sethe’s daughter 18 years ago. The second culmination is at the end of the novel, where Beloved, the assumed ghost of Sethe’s daughter, is exorcised.
The use of two climaxes allows the reader to gain a better understanding of both the past and present. The author believes that it isn’t enough to simply talk about the past horrors and has to tell of the sufferings that occur many years later to give the story an emphasis. Instead of a steady uphill then downhill walk, Beloved takes the reader through a maze in which the exit can only be found by the readers themselves. Multiple corridors are revealed in the course of the journey in which the reader can choose which one to take, thus making the reader need to constantly think about the story as a whole.
One of the major themes in the Plague is human solidarity. Largely due to the efforts of Tarrou, a lot of the people in Oran participate in a voluntary group to fight against the plague. Although some at first refuse to join in, they nonetheless participate not because they were forced to, but because they finally realized that the plague had become a matter of everyone in the town. Even Father Paneloux, who blindly believes that a priest can never friends and that the plague has been sent by God as a punishment, takes part in the voluntary group.
Similarly, Beloved also deals with the theme of the extent to which individuals need the support of their communities in order to survive. Sethe was the first to gain back part of her soul when she becomes part of the community during her 28 days of freedom. Likewise, Denver grows up and learns her true self when she finally has the courage to step out of 124 and earn money and friendship in the community.
Also, Paul D recalls during his prison break many years ago, if “one lost, all lost”. At the end of the novel, the black community makes up for its past misbehavior by gathering at 124 to collectively exorcise Beloved. By removing the ghost from their lives, the whole community finally secures Sethe’s, and in turn, its own release from the past. Since the book was not told in a chronological way, the reader is given a variety of information bit by bit. This theme is slowly developed bit by bit and whenever we are about to forget about a piece, another one is given so that we can turn our attention back to it, as if we are revising for it again and again until we remember it by the end of the story.
Unfortunately, The Plague ends as a tragic comedy. Although the protagonists finally overcome the plague, many lives, including Paneloux and Tarrou, have been lost to the antagonist. There is also the certainty that the plague will appear again, whether in Oran or some other town. Dr. Rieux, acknowledging that man can never conquer death, has narrated the story of the plague in order to teach others to recognize and fight the disease. This ending is a bit too abrupt as the plague suddenly died down and then vanished which leaves the audience wondering about whether the story has really ended, as if the loose knots aren’t tied together yet.
Similarly, though Sethe’s story is truly tragic, at the end of the novel she has some hope. Since Sethe has begun to come to terms with her past, she defeats her antagonist. Although Sethe is still suffering physically, she is relieved that Beloved has finally ceased to haunt her and that the community has finally reached out to her. Sethe is also pleased that Paul D has returned to live with her and nurse her back to health.
When he tells her that she is her own best thing, she realizes, for the first time, that she is truly a person in her own right, not just a mother or an ex-slave. The ending excellently portrays Sethe’s persevere life when the final piece is put in by the reader; he/she gains the same victory feel as the characters of Beloved and instead of walking away from the story, will stand back a bit to actually admire the whole picture as a whole.
In conclusion, I believe that chronological order is not the best way to convey a story or an idea. It may certainly aid the reader in gaining a better understanding of the flow of ideas in the text but nonetheless it leaves room for the audience to guess. On the other hand, if one is to truly understand the meaning of a text not told in a chronological way, he/she must carefully consider each fragment that is given and then slowly piece them back together. We cannot afford to forget or misplace a piece or else the magnificent picture will never be complete, which in turn, I believe, is the most convincing way to convey a story or idea.