Toni Morrison’s Post Civil War Novel, “Beloved”

In 1987, the novel “Beloved” came about. This post-civil war novel by Toni Morrison is a heartbreaking novel of battling with memories, your horrible actions, and the past. In everyone’s life, there is a moment that is so horrific and so heartbreaking that all you want to do is push it so far back in your mind that you never have to think of it again. A death, for example, is very traumatizing. It is natural to shut out those bad memories in order to save yourself from the bad emotional experience. Often people abandon their traumatic and horrific experience emotions because it is the best way to forget them. In Toni Morrison’s post civil war novel, “Beloved”, memories are depicted as a dangerous and deliberating faculty of human consciousness. In this novel, Sethe finds herself / gets trapped in the depression and self imprisonment of haunting memories by constantly thinking over the past, and the death of her daughter, and her mother, baby suggs.

The past and everything Sethe did haunts her in her memories day in and day out. She tries to convince herself she did the right thing but the voice of Beloved is always in her head, filling her soul and consciousness with regret and pain. No matter where Sethe goes, she will always have those memories and thoughts in her head. The ghost of her murdered daughter continues to haunt her. They all know and feel that “Anything dead coming back to life hurts.” (35) The plot of “Beloved” unfolds through the authors use of a complete weaving together of the multiple flashbacks, memories, and the past. Toni Morrison has a very unique and interesting author style. She has very vivid detail and her vocabulary to describe things is not of comparison. “Her intricate writing style does not just tell the reader about issues concerning African-Americans instead she shows them. In Beloved, set in Ohio and a plantation in Kentucky, Morrison shows slavery through flashbacks and stories told by characters.

Her word choices give the reader the sense on how slave masters viewed their slaves as savage animals. Her work is described as breathtaking, leaving Beloved more than a story; it is a history, and it is a life of its own.” The quote / passage i chose to describe Toni’s writing style shows all of these things. The detail and the verbal brutality that is the truth in her work is proven when she said “White people believed that whatever the manners, under every dark skin was a jungle. Swift unnavigable waters, swinging screaming baboons, sleeping snakes, red gums ready for their sweet white blood. In a way … they were right … but it wasn’t the jungle blacks brought with them to this place, it was the jungle whitefolks planted in them. And grew it. It spread… until it invaded the whites who had made it … made them bloody, silly, worse than even they wanted to be, so scared of the jungle they had made.

The screaming baboon lived under their own white skin; the red gums were their own.” (chapter 19) Morrison’s writing is all about the slaves perspective and what they went through. She does an amazing job at showing us just how bad the white people dehumanized the slaves for all those years. The white people gave the slaves hell all their life for something they themselves created and took it all out on them. Morrison uses vivid detail. She doesn’t just tell the story black and white, she lets the reader figure out the true story and the timeline. By using her techniques and her passion for the slaves lifes and getting their point of view out there, she gives the reader every bit of a good story through her passion for her story, her use of detail, and everything in between. Morrison is an amazing author and has impeccable style.

Do you know the feeling of having something horrible you did, haunt you for the rest of your life? Have you ever done something so bad to where it literally comes back to you everyday and drowns you with guilt? These things i have just described are what Sethe in my novel had to go through everyday after she decided to brutally murder her child, Beloved, with the mind set that she was saving her and doing her a favor in the long run. Sethe has to live with her choices of her past and her decisions every single day. The past haunts you. The past will always find a way to come back to you and hurt you. The ghost of her daughter comes back to her and drowns her in guilt just because she can. Sethe has memories of her daughter. She has thoughts of her emerging through the water in her wedding gown and having that positive connection between the two. It all comes back to your memories and the past. The theme of this book has everything to do with those two. Sethe’s past as a slave and knowing what she went through influenced her to murder her daughter. Sethe has constant flashbacks of her daughter and constant hard memories every day because she chose to kill her sweet beloved.

She was constantly “suspended between the nastiness of life and the meanness of the dead, she couldn’t get interested in leaving the life or living it, let alone the thought of two creeping boys. Her past had been like her present -intolerable- and since she knew death like it was anything but forgetfulness, she used the little energy left her for pondering color…” (pgs 3-4) As you can tell, the idea of past and memories runs deep in this book and it ties into every aspect of it. The whole theme / idea of this book is based on the past and how it affects your future. The conclusion of this novel is many different aspects. The idea of memories, flashbacks, and how your past comes back to haunt you is very clear in this novel. Morrison shows us through her writing style, the power that racism and cruelty had on the black people. She shows us the insight to how they felt and not just the opinion of the snobby mean whites who only saw these people as slaves and underclass working fools. She gives them recognition through her writing.

Morrison uses so many things to make her novel stand out. She doesn’t just tell the story how it is. She likes the challenge for the reader and she likes for them to piece it together at the end and figure it all out as a whole. The novel is really an art piece. Morrison’s use of both verse and stream of consciousness writing where necessary is nothing to compare and not often matched in literature. Her strict narrative, she realizes, is not enough to capture the feelings of a people, and she manages to capture them in some of the most well-known passages of modern literature. Her use of symbols also creates an atmosphere riddled with force and drama. The structure of her work is compounded with an ever-switching point of view. All in all, Toni Morrison really knows how to connect to her readers. This novel has a very clear idea of your memories and how your past can come back around and stay with you for the rest of your life. No matter what you do.