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Toni Morrison: "beloved"


1. Author

2. Literary period: postmodernism

3. Main novel: "Beloved"


1. Author

She was an american novelist, essayist, editor and professor. Her books talk about the lives of black people, especially women. She met Harold Morrison and married him, they had 2 children and divorced. She worked on kids' books with her son, who died. Then her youngest son died and she stopped working on her novel, but it was later published.

The term Postmodern literature is used to describe works of literature that were produced after World War II (after 1945). The main objective of postmodern literature is to break away from conventional traditions through experimentation with new literary devices, forms, genres, styles etc.

What is this movement??

Literary period: postmodernism

Beloved is about a pregnant black woman who seeks her freedom. But it is threatened by white men who see black population as commodities.

3. "Beloved"

Beloved’s identity is ambiguous; she might be an ordinary traumatized woman, the ghost of Sethe’s mother, or the embodied spirit of Sethe’s murdered daughter. Allegorically, she represents the haunting past of slavery. Her increasingly malevolent presence catalyzes the emotional growth of Sethe, Paul D, and Denver.

Denver, Sethe's youngest child, is intelligent and sensitive but emotionally stunted by isolation. Beloved's malevolence pushes her to overcome her fear and seek help from the community. Her efforts to find work and attend college signify her quest for independence and self-possession.

After Halle buys Baby Suggs' freedom, she becomes an emotional and spiritual leader in Cincinnati, holding gatherings at the Clearing to teach self-love. Following Sethe's infanticide, Baby Suggs retreats and eventually dies. However, her memory inspires Denver to seek help, and out of respect for Baby Suggs, the community responds to Denver's requests for support.

Paul D, scarred by brutality at Sweet Home and on a chain gang, represses his emotions in a "rusted tobacco tin" of his heart, believing detachment is key to survival. Despite this, he encourages others to open up, especially women. At 124, he becomes Sethe's lover, inciting jealousy in Denver and Beloved. His relationship with Sethe helps him confront his past, but he continues to struggle with his identity and self-worth.

Sethe, the protagonist of *Beloved*, is a proud and independent woman devoted to her children. Her strong motherly instincts drive her to attempt to murder her children to protect them from the traumas she endured as a slave. She remains haunted by this act and other traumatic events from her past, which she unsuccessfully tries to repress.

Baby Suggs

Paul D



Characters of "beloved"


Ella, a colleague of Stamp Paid on the Underground Railroad, is traumatized by past sexual brutality and believes the past should remain buried. When Beloved resurfaces, Ella organizes the women of the community to exorcise her from 124.

Lady Jones, a light-skinned Black woman who dislikes her blond hair, feels despised for her mixed race but remains committed to her community. She teaches underprivileged children in Cincinnati and, despite skepticism about the supernatural aspects of Denver's plea, helps organize food deliveries to Sethe's troubled household.

Sethe’s husband and Baby Suggs’s son, Halle is generous, kind, and sincere. He is very much alert to the hypocrisies of the Garners’ “benevolent” form of slaveholding. Halle eventually goes mad, presumably after witnessing schoolteacher’s nephews’ violation of Sethe.

After Mr. Garner’s death, schoolteacher takes over Sweet Home, enforcing a brutal and oppressive regime. Cold and racist, he replaces Garner’s leniency with harsh rules and punishment. His most insidious oppression involves "scientific" scrutiny of the slaves, measuring and teaching their supposed "animal characteristics." Despite his power, the slaves attribute no worth to him, as suggested by the ironic lower-case "s" in his title.

Stamp Paid, revered by the community for his role in the Underground Railroad, helps Sethe to freedom and later saves Denver’s life. Believing a grave sacrifice during his enslavement settled his emotional and moral debts, he renamed himself “Stamp Paid.” However, by the book's end, he realizes he still owes protection to the residents of 124. Frustrated by the community's neglect of Sethe, Denver, and Paul D, Stamp questions the community's obligations to its members.


Lady Jones



Stamp Paid

Characters of "beloved"

Amy, a nurturing and compassionate indentured servant, is young, talkative, and idealistic. She aids Sethe during her escape from Sweet Home and remarks that Sethe's wounds resemble a tree. Amy also delivers baby Denver, whom Sethe names after her.

Paul A and Paul F are the brothers of Paul D. They were slaves at Sweet Home with him, Halle, Sethe, and, earlier, Baby Suggs. Sixo is another fellow slave. Sixo and Paul A die during the escape from the plantation.

The Bodwin siblings, white abolitionists who aided Sethe’s freedom, show unsettling aspects in their activism. Mr. Bodwin nostalgically idealizes abolitionism, while Miss Bodwin patronizingly plans Denver’s education. A figurine in their home depicting a slave with “At Yo’ Service” highlights ironies in white involvement in racial equality. Despite this, their intentions stem from a belief in the sanctity of all human life.

Mr. and Mrs. Garner are the comparatively benevolent owners of Sweet Home. The events at Sweet Home reveal, however, that the idea of benevolent slavery is a contradiction in terms. The Garners’ paternalism and condescension are simply watered-down versions of schoolteacher’s vicious racism.

Paul A, Paul F, and Sixo

Amy Denver

Mr. and Miss Bodwin

Mr. and Mrs. Garner

Characters of "beloved"