Sunday, November 29, 2015

Stepping Out of Her World

Within Beloved, Denver is really the only character who forced herself into a world that she did not know. Her mother, grandmother, and "sister" hid themselves from the world they had known because of the pain it had caused. But by doing so, they kept themselves from leading fulfilling and productive lives. This fact is particularly disappointing because Sethe and Suggs were both women who with potential to have beautiful lives. Suggs with her preaching, and Sethe raising her children. But when their past life of slavery caught up with them, that future was killed when Sethe murdered her child. That act was what sealed the women into their bubble, in an attempt to hide from the horrors the world had brought to them. Neither Sethe, Suggs, nor Beloved changed in a way that could bring them back to the real world. Suggs died, and Sethe was hindered by Beloved's manipulation and haunting. Denver is the only women who broke out of her jail of sheltered fear. Without Denver, I do not believe Sethe would have been able to get away from Beloved. While Denver could be ignorant at times, throughout the novel she grows into an independent and intelligent young lady. You can see how her maturity changes and her perspective of specific situations shifts. In the end, when she finally leaves her home by herself, that is symbolic of her leaving childhood and entering adulthood. She was a warrior and went to battle to save her mother.

What is Your Conclusion?

As I outline my arguments for this paper, I realize that I don't even know what my conclusion is. Depending on the character I choose, I can make a different conclusion about slavery as a whole. Denver and Paul D show that there is life after slavery, but Sethe seems consumed by guilt and regret. Sethe wastes away in Baby Sugg's room, just as Baby Sugg's did when she gave up on the humanity of the ex-slaves.
This book is dominantly crafted by stories, memories, and flashbacks. What is the point of all this storytelling? All these memories? Are they letting them go or simply burdening each other with them? It seems like it's a different answer for every character. Each character seems to use memories in a different way.

For the Love of a Daughter

Sethe killed Beloved because she didn't want her to suffer like she did. She didn't want her daughter to have to experience a life of slavery like she did. While the community is outraged by the event, I can almost see where Sethe is coming from. Personally, I would never go to such extreme measures but it is clear, especially knowing Sethe as a character, that what she did was out of love. For her to go to such measures may have been excessive, but she felt that it was the only way to ensure her daughter would not have to endure a life of oppression and mistreatment.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Sethe's Love

Sethe barely knew her own mother because of the long hours her mother worked. Although Sethe may find some comfort in knowing that out of all her mother's children, she was the only one given a name and allowed to live, much of Sethe's internal struggle is the result of the unclear relationship with her mother. Sethe's devotion to her children is the result of the suspicion that her mother was trying to escape and abandon Sethe. After her mother was caught and hanged, Sethe was forced to face of the horrors of slavery alone. This betrayal explains Sethe's choices she makes as a mother. She refuses to do the same to her children and risks her life to reach them when they've gone ahead to Ohio so they won't have to be without her. Her ultimate expression of a mother's love is killing her children to save them from slavery. Sethe chooses to free them through death rather than allow them to experience what she endured as a slave.


"Adhering to this inclusive model provides the conceptual space needed for each individual to see that she or he is both a member of multiple dominant groups and a member of multiple subordinate groups. "

When I read the Patricia Collins article, I thought about Alice Walker's novel Meridian. This particular line made me think of the character Lynne. Lynne is a white woman who holds a strange position within the matrix of domination. Like anyone else, she is a member of multiple dominant and subordinate groups, and her situation brings out a few extremes. Lynne's character ran away from home to marry a black man in the early 1960's. She was ultimately rejected by both the white community and the black community. She was disowned by her parents because they were disappointed in her, and distanced from her black friends and neighbors because they feared her for her race. She lacks the benefits of a full position in either community. Aside from her race and her chosen community, Lynne is a woman, which adds another layer to her oppressor/oppressed stance. A chapter in the book focused on Lynne's rape, which highlights all of these groups. 
Lynne was raped by Tommy Odds, a black man who was shot because he was seen in public with Lynne (a white woman) and Truman (her black husband). Although she was fully aware that she was being raped, she made a point to tell Tommy Odds that she forgave him, and reflected on the situation in a way that made it seem like she deserved the mistreatment as a way to compensate for her whiteness. The chapter pointed out the fluidity of dominance within each dominant or subordinate group, which I thought was interesting. 

A Beloved Thanksgiving

Toni Morrison's Beloved demonstrates community dynamics and what the roles of the individuals are within the community. Pre-Sethe's outburst, Baby Suggs was largely the mother or grandmother figure of the community and treated all of her neighbors as well as one would treat family. She protected them, aided them, and fed them in many instances. Baby Suggs was very much a giving person that, after her death, was missed dearly by the entire community. Her last moment of giving came when she hosted a dinner for the whole town.

The community feast in the novel was a spontaneous event planned for the sole purpose of sharing good food with the community. Thanksgiving, while not nearly as spontaneous, is a holiday meant to achieve the same purpose. The feeling of connection and support at the feast was created by the communal effort of preparing the meal. In my family, this same group participation is present, each person bringing a different dish. The care free nature of the feast and the love that the characters shared really emphasizes the true purpose of Thanksgiving, to be thankful for the people in the world that you love and care for you and for everything that the world has given you.

Oppressor and Oppressed

Patricia Hill Collins' "Black Feminist Thought in the Matrix of Domination" takes a close look into the interaction of power binaries and the importance of recognizing how power dynamics influence each other as opposed to compartmentalizing them. What I believe to be her most important argument is summarized in this statement:

"Depending on the context, an individual may be an oppressor, a member of an oppressed group, or simultaneously oppressor and oppressed."

This excerpt was particularly intriguing to me because it presents an idea because it seems to challenge the way we commonly think of power imbalances.  We think of and refer to them as binaries - distinctions between two groups - like WHITE/black or MALE/female, but this oversimplification is dangerous. Implicit in the idea that one group is oppressed by an oppressor is the idea that the oppressor is not oppressed, which, as Collins argues, is not always true. For example, a person could be an oppressor in terms of the WHITE/black binary, but oppressed in terms of the MALE/female binary. With so many constructed imbalances that exist today, is it possible to not be both oppressor and oppressed?

Sethe's Choices

Sethe reacts in two different ways when a white man comes into her yard. The second time the danger is imagined, but no less real in her own mind. The first time, four armed men are coming, prepared to find her and drag her and her children back to slavery, or if absolutely necessary kill them. From a typical perspective, there would not seem to be any real choice: she could try hiding, running, or even attacking, but in every case there is still a good chance she would fail. Usually that would be the end of the choices, but Sethe finds a way out that absolutely ensures none of her children would be taken: she kills them, or at least attempts to. Setting aside all the moral implications, it was the strongest choice she could make. The second time, Sethe attacks Mr. Bodwin with the icepick, even while she is being brainwashed by Beloved and seeming smaller, almost as if Beloved is stealing part of Sethe's being. 

While I can't agree with the actions themselves (the second one was unnecessary, and the first, well, at best morally ambiguous) I do admire that Sethe takes action, very decisively. Especially in the second case, when Beloved has such a strong hold on her and doesn't want her to leave, Sethe decides to attack who she probably believes is schoolteacher. It's a very unwise choice, but it's still a strong-willed one. 

The Community Saves Sethe

In the end of Beloved, the community comes together to rid Beloved of 124 and save Sethe. It is because of this, that Beloved disappears and leaves Sethe and her family alone forever. This is because when Sethe was being stopped by the rest of the women from killing the white man with an ice pick, Beloved could see that she was no longer needed.

Once Sethe had the community behind her again, Beloved stopped having an influence over Sethe and left. The community of Cincinnati plays a vital role in the story. When Baby Suggs was in 124 and before Sethe killed her baby, the community was very strong. However, on the day that School teacher came to 124, the community was mad at Baby Suggs for flaunting how much she had by throwing that huge party the day before, so they didn't warn the family that School teacher was coming--they left them to be taken back to slavery by School teacher. After this day, the community was dispersed. They no longer supported Baby Suggs and they really did not like Sethe.

It was because of the reconnection of the community, and that Sethe no longer needed Beloved, that Beloved disappeared.

Community in Beloved

After finishing Beloved, I had some questions still left about the ending. I didn't understand why the community singing would get Beloved to leave. As I had some more time to think about this question, I realized that the black community in Cincinnati Ohio was a more powerful part of the story than I thought. Throughout the story the black community in Ohio serves a significant role in the ability to change the character's lives. When Baby Suggs was alive, the community supported and helped her family. After and shortly before the "Misery" however, the community turns their back on Baby Suggs and Sethe, and 124 suffers because of that. In the end however when the community comes once again to help 124 courtesy of Sethe's child, Denver, it is the community that has the power to expel Beloved. Community is a very prominent component of Beloved and I think it is worth it to take note of that.

Denver, Baby it's Cold Outside

At the beginning of the novel, I did not sympathize with Denver. She seemed so dependent on Sethe and her love not to mention she was a little bit creepy. Later we learned that she was screwed up by isolation and the idea that she was living with a woman who had once tried to kill her but she was still supposed to love. I started to change my tune but then she became obsessed with Beloved. I could not understand how she would side with her reborn dead sister so late in the novel when Beloved was obviously only causing harm. But then she went outside. She got out of 124 and talked to some people from the community that had rejected her family. It was extremely brave and a major turning point for her and the novel because it ended up solving all her problems. Denver grew so much as a person and a character within a couple pages that it was almost unbelievable. It was nice to see Denver standing on her own when everything she knew was deteriorating but was some fresh air and new people really all she needed?
By going outside Denver obtained a new perspective. Forced out of her comfortable binary with Sethe, she was able to see how unhealthy it was. She sees Sethe and Beloved in the same, if more intense, binary and decides to make a change. Last we see Denver she is the least dependent character in the book. Sethe and Paul D depend on each other to keep the past in the past and grow together but Denver is her own new person. She even confronts Paul D about his infidelity. To conclude, Denver is a badass.

Two Violent Acts

The end of Beloved was very intense for me. I was not expecting Sethe to show another act of violence. Even though Sethe killed her daughter and hurt her other children, I never thought of her as a violent person. The scene where the schoolteacher came and found Sethe in the barn with the saw felt like it was part of a different story, or at least about a different character. Throughout all of the novel leading up to that scene, Sethe was written as a strong, loving mother, so it felt strange to suddenly read about her killing her child. After reading this part, I went back to thinking about Sethe in a positive way and never considered her hurting anyone again. But then the man came to take Denver to work and Sethe flipped again. I'm sure part of the reason this happened was because she had so much anger towards the schoolteacher inside her and saw this man as him, but I think the bigger factor was the fact that Beloved made Sethe go crazy. I just have a hard time believing that Sethe would be so violent again for no real reason.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sethe's Impossible Choice

The moment that Sethe found out that schoolteacher was there to take her and her children back to slavery, she didn't have many options. Disregarding that the community should have told Sethe in advance, Sethe had little time to think and act. I wonder if Sethe ever thought about what she would do if schoolteacher arrived as he did. Did Sethe plan to kill her child, or did it just happen? What was her plan?

Regardless, it brings up an interesting question. Did Sethe do the right thing? and if not, what should she have done? I believe that it is impossible to come to a conclusion. None of us know the horrors of slavery, nor can we know if we would ever kill our own child under any circumstance.

Dearly Loved Beloved

Was it justifiable for Sethe to kill Beloved? Sethe claims that she did it out of love. But is it possible that her love was too deep?

Again and again Sethe attempts to explain to Beloved that she could not allow her to be brought up as a slave because she knows from experience that you start to loss your humanity and become ripped away from your freedom. But Beloved will not hear her out and constantly reminds Sethe that she left her.

Even if Sethe did not want to see her children brought up as slaves, I do not believe that she was justified to make the decision to kill her own children.  Mothers are supposed to protect their children at all costs.  Sethe thought protecting somehow equaled killing.  But, isn't this the ultimate end that the children need protecting from?  Sethe could instead have protected Beloved from injustices of slavery.  Her extreme actions could have been channeled into protection from others, including the masters.

I think that Sethe is not necessarily trying to explain her actions to Beloved but more to her self, because she can't live knowing that she was wrong.  And, as that knowledge becomes inescapable, Sethe sinks deeper and deeper into depression. 

This is Denver's Story

By the time I finished Beloved, it was clear to me who the story really belonged to. It wasn't Beloved's, Baby Suggs', or even Sethe's, even through her part was detrimental to its development. This was Dever's story. 

When we met Denver, she was a child trapped in a world that was stuck in the past. Her naivety, innocence, and selfishness made her seem much younger than she really was. None of this was her fault, as she was overly sheltered her entire life. 

Through flashbacks, we are told the story of Denver's birth, infancy, and childhood. We see how others' choices, influenced by the iron-grip of slavery and the past, shaped Denver's life. 

Once Denver begins to make her own choices, come to her own, and venture into the community for the first time alone, she grows in maturity exponentially. At this point in the story, my respect and admiration for Denver sprouted, as well. 

It was Denver, a force propelling out of the past, who gathered the community that prevented a second slaughter happening at 124. Denver, who was born free, was the only character without the grip of the past holding her back. 

This was her story because she could move forward. 

"It was not a story to pass on"... until 2015

I was really surprised by the ending of Beloved. Within the last three chapters of the book I would have never expected Beloved to be gone. Beloved got bigger and ran the house while Sethe got physically smaller and was placed in the "child" role.

The novel starts with a distant voice that narrates the lives of Baby Suggs, Sethe, and Denver, and ends with a distant voice hinting about the larger purpose of the book. The line "It was not a story to pass on," (323) was repeated twice followed by the line, "This is not a story to pass on" (324). For me this was not only a change in wording, but was also a hint that the story actually should be passed on: a fictious, yet realistic and historical story about life post slavery.

The story should be passed on because some of the topics in the book are present in 2015. One potent example is the WHITE/black binary and the role of the community. In Beloved there are many examples of the binary such as slavery in Sweet Home, specifically school teacher. The community at first disowns Baby Suggs and her family because of their lavish dinner, but then come together at the end to see if Beloved is hurting Sethe. Present day there is still the WHITE/black binary and pride has divided some families and communities.

This binary, along with others, should be acknowledged and can start to be dissolved through mutual recognition. However, the ending of the novel also seems to suggest that the past should be left behind to move forward to the present. This suggestion comes through Paul D comforting Sethe after Beloved leaves. I think the only way to really move forward is to remember the past, see how the present compares, and fix what you don't like. It's easier said than done.

Beloved's ending was definitely open for interpretation but I think one thing is for sure: this is a story to pass on.

College Admission

This system is nuts! The application isn't wholistic enough to properly screen candidates for college admission. They expect us to sum up our entire education and life experience in an essay in less than 650 words. This expectation seems unrealistic to me. Another problem with this reliance on essays is that those who can afford to hire a college counselor can buy themselves a higher chance to be admitted to colleges. That can't be fair! 
Is there a solution to this problem? I'm not sure. Clearly college admission should be based on talent and intelligence, but how can one truly measure that? Not through a test or essays, that's for sure. Trying to base admissions off of essays or tests is silly, because there's no way they can properly measure a student's potential.

Something's Screwy about their Screwing

The sexual encounters between Paul D and Beloved have bothered me for a variety of reasons. Ignoring the uncomfortable adult/child dynamic, and Paul D's lack of fidelity, there is still an aspect of their relationship that doesn't sit well. I can't place its significance in the context of the rest of the novel, and what Toni Morrison intends it to mean. It can't simply be a demonstration of Paul D's sexual weakness, because that was already established by the calves at Sweet Home.

If we look at Beloved as a manifestation of Sethe's past mired with grief and suffering, it seems to make a little more sense. Beloved's presence at 124 constantly antagonizes Paul D. She moves him from one part of the house to the next and puts immense strain on his relationship with Sethe. This tortured relationship slowly contributes to Sethe's grief ridden past, and it's represented physically by Paul D and Beloved's relationship. That's why Beloved appears pregnant at the end of the novel. Her baby isn't simply the product of her sex with Paul D, it represents his own place within Sethe's anguish.

A Mother's Influence

Throughout Toni Morrison's Beloved, Sethe tries to protect her children, in the way that she sees the world, to the best of her ability. While caring and loving your children is a necessity for their growth, that love coming from a negative place can lead to a mother making wrong decision. This was basically the thesis that my group came up with for our passage presentation. I didn't pay much attention at first, but I think that Sethe's mother plays a huge role in how Sethe becomes so protective of her children. On pg. 240, Sethe talks about her life with her mother and her mother's death. All she really knows is that her mother was hanged. She continues to think that this was for some other reason than running away. She tells her self that no mother would just leave their child alone, especially in a system as perverse as slavery. Or would they? I think that Sethe truly does think that her mother didn't care for her as much as she thought previously.  Therefore, her love for her children has stemmed for a place of darkness and negativity in her life. This love that come from bad places can lead to wrong choices. This is just an idea.


In Toni Morrison's Beloved,  Morrison centers the novel's narrative around Sethe. At the beginning of the book Sethe is portrayed as this courageous and loving mother. That is why the end of Chapter 18 was such a shock to me. Sethe murdered her own daughter, Beloved, hoping to keep her safe from slave catchers. At first I thought Sethe was crazy, but then I started to think of all the horrible things Sethe has experienced while being a slave. Slavery is the indirect cause of why Sethe killed her own child. I do not think anyone will ever truly understand what she went through, so for me it is hard to judge what Sethe did. This all makes me wonder what the story would have been like if the characters were not African American. If they were white, this story might not have even existed.

What Makes a Good Parent?

When we took the survey before reading Beloved, I answered that a mother´s love cannot lead to a decision to destroy a child, and I definitely believed that.
I think now that we have finished this novel, my view on this subject has slightly changed. I have always thought that a good parent is a person that will do anything to protect their child from harm. This is essentially what Sethe was doing when she killed Beloved, right?
Although I have come to see that Sethe was just trying to protect her child, I think Sethe is crazy. She had just gotten her family out of slavery, why decide to kill them now? She says on page 194 that killing Beloved worked because her kids aren't at Sweet Home and Schoolteacher  doesn't have them. I'm a little mystified by this because they had just escaped from Sweet Home, so would they not have spent the rest of their lives at 124?
Although I do think Sethe was a good parent, I do not think she is a reasonable person.

Denver All Grown Up

Last week, I blogged about how young Denver seemed to be. She was incredibly dependent on her mother, Sethe.  I thought she was 12 years old when in reality, she was 18 years old. After finishing the book, I saw the novel as Sethe's story, but Toni Morrison has said the Beloved is Denver's story, which I also understand. Denver's story is one of significant growth.

When Sethe and Beloved began to grow closer, I felt sorry for Denver. She lost her mother to an evil sister. But as the story progressed, I saw that Denver was actually fortunate to have been excluded by her mother and sister. It allowed her to become an adult. She left her home for the third time in her life and even go herself a job working for the Bowdin's. The final encounter we have with Denver is a conversation she has with Paul D in which he realizes how mature she has become. In this moment the reader realizes, along with Paul D, that Denver is in fact an adult with opinions of her own.


If there's one constant in Beloved, it's the variability of representation. Almost every motif in the book has a double meaning of some sort, and the color red is no exception. Colors from the red part of the spectrum (including orange and pink) recur throughout Beloved, although the meaning of these red objects varies. Amy Denver’s red velvet, for example, is an image of hope and a brighter future, while Paul D’s “red heart” represents feeling and emotion. Overall, red seems to connote vitality and the visceral nature of human existence. Yet, in Beloved, vitality often goes hand in hand with mortality, and red images simultaneously refer to life and death, to presence and absence. For example, the red roses that line the road to the carnival serve to herald the carnival’s arrival in town and announce the beginning of Sethe, Denver, and Paul D’s new life together; yet they also stink of death. The red rooster signifies manhood to Paul D, but it is a manhood that Paul D himself has been denied. The story of Amy’s search for carmine velvet seems especially poignant because we sense the futility of her dream. Sethe’s memory is awash with the red of her daughter’s blood and the pink mineral of her gravestone, both of which have been bought at a dear price. This strange amalgamation of meanings is present in almost all other themes, and supports the ideal that nothing is at it seems.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Am I Just A White Feminist?

The Matrix of Domination, written by Patricia Hill Collins, made me think a lot about myself as a feminist and the kind of values I like to base 'my feminism' around. Of course, most all feminism is good feminism, but discussing Collins' piece and its key points made me more aware, and a bit self-conscious, about intersectionality. As ideal as it would be for all the people in the world- male, female, whatever- to come together seamlessly to unite for equality for women's rights, it's not that simple. As a white female, that automatically gives me more privilege than a black female. As Mr. Heidkamp demonstrated in class with his privileges chart, the usual binaries of man/woman and black/white etc. get a little blurred when it comes to intersectional feminism. I think that this something that should be addressed way more than it is today. I can understand why it isn't, though. The idea of feminism alone gets bashed enough - "why not just call it humanism?" and "but what about men?" - so to push another sect, or simply another layer of feminism, to the world could be too much. 
But getting back to my original point about feeling a bit self-conscious reading this piece. I'm afraid that most of what I do and talk most about is just too white feminist-y. As Collins puts it, am I failing to see how my thoughts and actions uphold someone else’s subordination? Of course I want to say 'no', but since I've never been in the Other position, at least in being a girl, how can I be sure? I'm white, cis-gendered, and middle class. At this point, it could seem as though there is a competition for who is the most oppressed of them all, but that's not what intersectionality is about. I think it's about adjusting the lens that we see the world, and especially our privilege through, in order to better suit everyone. Educating yourself and being aware of both how you're oppressed and how you're not is a great step in the right direction. I feel it needs to be made more aware that in the world, and specifically the feminist movement, we're not all white, middle class, cis-gendered, and able bodied!


As soon as I began reading part 3 of Beloved, it was clear to me that things were very off from the way Denver talked about hunger, Sethe's frailty, and Beloved's growing weight. I started out feeling angry at Sethe and Beloved for excluding Denver, until I read further and saw how creepy the pair's relationship had become. I'm glad Denver was able to escape it, even if she might not have wanted to initially. 

Sethe and Beloved's relationship seemed fairly codependent at first, and although Sethe apparently gets something out of it, Beloved really is the only one benefiting from the situation. Sethe repeatedly tries to justify her actions to Beloved, only to be rejected and remain unforgiven. At some point, Denver speculates that Beloved's reaction is exactly what Sethe wants, or thinks she deserves, which explains that half of the codependent relationship. 

But when you look at Beloved's side of their relationship, it begins to seem more like a relationship between a parasite and its host. Beloved does nothing but demand things from Sethe: her attention, food, love, and time. She can do nothing but give and give and give to Beloved for fear of her reborn daughter leaving her again, and she's given nothing but her child's unpleasant presence in return. What's creepier is how much like an actual parasite Beloved is- she sucks the life out of Sethe by taking her food, and as her mother grows thinner and weaker, Beloved grows stronger and fatter. She most likely would have killed Sethe with all of her demands if the whole debacle in front of 124 hadn't gone down and mysteriously caused her to disappear.

My symbolism enlightenment

For me, Beloved was strenuous to get through. I ended up having to read each paragraph twice just to gain a slight understanding of what was going on in Morrison’s big world. However, once I got through the grueling text and complicated language her chapters were filled with, I started to like it. I still believe ghosts are fictional; Morrison hasn’t quite changed my mind about that. But, she has opened me to a world where I enjoy symbolism and her strange, but effective, writing style. I have always hated symbolism because I never have been able to understand what the author is really trying to say through the “blue curtains” for example. But once I read (and re-read) the passage about the sweet corn juice and Sethe’s wedding I was enlightened. Never before had I truly gotten what the author was trying to say in such depth. Through her creative style the reader (i.e. me), without even knowing it, is drawing parallels throughout the chapters through flashbacks to connect past and present thoughts of the characters. Ultimately leading to the peak of the story: Beloved’s discovery as the slain, “already crawling?” baby, and her downfall.

Pick Your Poison

Paul D and Sethe have very differing ideas of safety. Their ideas are most clearly shown while they are discussing what Sethe did to Beloved. In order to keep beloved out of the clutches of Schoolteacher, Sethe slit Beloved's infantile throat with a handsaw. She was about to do the same to Denver but she was saved by Stamp Paid, who came in and ran away with Denver.

Paul D believes that killing Beloved was the wrong course of action for Sethe to take. He believes that she would've been better off as a slave. Of course Sethe believes the opposite, and thinks that beloved would've been happier dead. Both of these options, are horrifying. There is no clear answer as to which of these alternatives is better. The fact that both of these options are so terrible makes the argument that there is no completely safe route that Sethe can take.

There is no right course of action between letting your daughter into a life of slavery, or not letting her live to see it. Paul D could not live with the reality of this decision, with the reality that there was no good outcome in that scenario. So he left Sethe and Denver.

Never Give Up

"'Tell me something, Stamp.' Paul D's eyes were rheumy. 'Tell me this one thing. How much is a nigger supposed to take? Tell me. How much?'"

"'All he can,' said Stamp Paid. 'All he can.'"

Toni Morrison's characters all have a fighting instinct. The story that she constructs shows this mentality, and then shows how life beats people down and tries to break their wills. Sometimes it succeeds, sometimes it doesn't.

Life broke Baby Suggs. When Sethe killed Beloved and tried to kill her other children, Baby Suggs couldn't take it. From that day on she was a shell of her former self, holed up in her bedroom studying different colors. Life broke Paul D. After years of coping with his memories of slavery, he was done in by Beloved, who moved him out of Sethe's house and into a church's basement. By the time Stamp paid him a visit (good pun, right?) he was beaten down and bitter about life.

However, life never broke Stamp Paid. It almost did. He had some close calls, and almost gave up after he experienced the pain of not being able to enter 124, despite his best attempts. Stamp tried to encourage Baby Suggs and Paul D when they were feeling depressed. Stamp was never one to give up on life.

Toni Morrison recognizes the struggles that people expreience. She realizes that the world can hurt people in the most intense ways. But she also knows that people are capable of fighting through the bad times, and she shows this in Beloved.

You Can't Spell Baby Suggs without Kendrick Lamar's "i"

Toni Morrison's Beloved is a great novel that gives voice to the "other" in a binary in a post-slavery era. She speaks on the horrors of slavery and the challenge to overcome the past through many literary devices. Morrison's most effective tools is her characterization. One powerful character in Beloved is Baby Suggs, an important community figure that strives to alleviate and climb past the history of slavery that haunts the African American community. Baby Suggs does this through her preaching of self love, similar to present day rapper, Kendrick Lamar.

In today's day where racism has been institutionalized and a city can be compared to a war zone, we need figures like Baby Suggs. One of these figures is Kendrick Lamar. Baby Suggs' clearing has evolved past the isolated space in the forest to the worldwide web where communication is easier than ever. Artists are especially heard today. Kendrick Lamar's message is one of great importance. While the Compton native's most recent album To Pimp a Butterfly speaks on many important matters ranging from racial inequality to gang violence, his resounding message of self love is one of the most important in my opinion. Lamar's Grammy winning song "i" is completely about self love for spiritual healing. Self love remains a way for redemption and alleviate pain, suffering, and self doubt. "i" embodies Baby Suggs clearing preaching fully. Even similar religious themes are reflected throughout the song. It's a great song and one that I urge you to listen to, especially after reading Baby Suggs' message. This is the song that plays in my mind when I read Baby Suggs' clearing message.

Seriously listen to it. Buy it on iTunes or Google Play, if that'y your thing, to listen to the the timeless message of self love.

Beloved: Hungry and Sucking the Life Out of Sethe

I thought it was interesting at the end how Beloved was so hungry and did not seem to care about anything but her appetite. I think that this was symbolic of how Beloved began to eat away a Sethe eventually until Sethe was a shell of her former self. I think that this could show that part of the reason that Beloved returned to Sethe was to cause her harm. Although this might not have been the actual intentions of Beloved, Beloved ends up scarring Sethe and rendering her relatively nonfunctional. I always thought that there was more to Beloved than just coming back to reattach herself to Sethe, that there was a more sinister reason for coming back.

Where is the Power?

Throughout Toni Morrison's Beloved, the reader experiences a multitude of binaries addressed by Benjamin including Male/female and White/black. However, none of the characters from the 124 house is truly a figure of power besides in their own community. The only person from the home who seemed to possess power in their community was Baby Suggs, yet throughout the story the reader gets a greater understanding of how malleable that reality is when the group of power changes the environment. The Matrix of Domination attempts to portray how every person belongs to dominating groups as well as oppressed groups. Yet, there is still a slight disconnect between this theory and Denver. She does not belong to any group of power and occupies three qualities: woman, slave, and youth, which make her the oppressed in this novel. Beloved does not necessarily support the assertions of the Matrix of Domination and suggests that there are certain people who do not possess power in any context.

The Roaring Twenties and Beloved

This story has sure taken a twist! I think it's so interesting that Beloved has become such a destructive force despite her namesake. Near the end of the novel, Beloved is eating Sethe and Denver out of their home! And what's so sad about it is that Sethe still sees her children (even Beloved) as her greatest self.

In almost any Disney movie ever made, there is always that saying that love (or true love's kiss) can conquer all evil. But in Toni Morrison's Beloved, it is the other way around. When Sethe and Beloved are reunited, one would think it would be a happy occasion. But instead, it leads to Sethe's breakdown. 

Recently, I started to reread F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. And I believe there can be a connection drawn from the love between Sethe and Beloved, to the love between Gatsby and Daisy. Both suffered long gaps of time apart and when they were able to be together once more, their love became a  destructive one. In the end of The Great Gatsby, I believe, that Gatsby death was a result of such unhealthy love. And of course, Beloved's love for Sethe causes Sethe to lose herself (lost her job, deteriorate her health, isolate Denver). 

Men and Masculinity in Beloved

Throughout Toni Morrison's novel Beloved, it is clear that the relationship between the main and female characters of the story are somewhat strained.  The most apparent example of this would be the relationship between Paul D and Sethe.  At the beginning of the novel it seems as though Sethe might be filling a void left empty by her husband, Halle, when accepting Paul D into their family at 124.  However, once Beloved shows up on the stump in front of the house, it's clear that Sethe's first intentions will not follow through.  Beloved's main reasoning behind returning to 124 was to reestablish the relationship between herself, her mother, and Denver, which she felt had been strained by the existence of Paul D in the house.  Beloved presence in 124 competes with Paul D's domination over the household, resulting in a lack of mutual recognition between the two individuals.  Because Paul D can no longer assert his masculinity, he is driven out of the house, and eventually leaves Sethe and Denver.

Importance of Community in a Competitive World

Patricia Collins made some very interesting and important arguments in her article. The one quote from Matrix of Domination that stuck out to me was the one about community related to Capitalism and oppression. She said, "The definition of community implicit in the market model sees community as arbitrary and fragile, structured fundamentally by competition and domination."

This is a very powerful quote that I think relates to all forms of community. In this context of capitalism and in the book Beloved, I believe her argument is valid. In a capitalist world, trading, investments, and all other types of interactions in business are either confidential or competitive. People often  want to have one on one structured battles and this leads to an oppressor and the oppressed. For me, this is where community is so important.

In a world where there is inequality and discrimination in all forms, community is vital. A group or individual on the top don't see community as important. However, for a diminished or lower group in society, the idea of coming together and uniting is essential. I think we see this in Beloved. The slaves and ex-slaves constantly look for that sense of belonging and equality but are denied by the white population. Collins is right when she says this applies to the market model. All in all, whether it's in slavery, a school, in the business world, or anywhere else, there needs to be a strong foundation of community in a society where we strive to be on the top and dominate.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Location in Beloved

While reading Beloved I couldn't help but notice how much setting is involved in the story. Because point of view differs constantly and there are many flashbacks, the setting is changing very often throughout the story. 

For one the setting of the house has a huge impact on the plot. This house is a character of its own, being haunted by Sethe's daughter that died. This house is located at the end of the road, very isolated from the rest of Cincinnati. This leads Denver to feel completely isolated from anyone and everything and this causes her stress. Denver often feels alone because she realizes that they don't leave the house often and no one typically shows up at the house. Additionally, Morrison uses personification of the house very often to give the home a strong personality.

Another setting that is constantly visited is Sweet Home. There are two emotions that are exemplified when this setting is discussed; either hatred toward it and the awful memories that come with it, or a feeling of nostalgia because all of the slaves were pretty close. They all seem to have some awful memories of them oppressed as slaves, but also some sweet memories of them and the beauty the home had. 

Overall the main connection to be made is that there are two states that the story goes between. Kentucky, where Sweet Home was and also a slave state and Ohio, where 124 is and a free state. The novel covers all of this ground including portions of the journey between the two. Setting is a strong component of the story because it is constantly changing according to where the character was/is when she is recalling certain memories or in the present. 

Biblical Beloved

Beloved by Toni Morrison is full of allusions to the Bible. Religion is a motif in the novel and many of the characters deal with religion whether it be Christianity or general spirituality. For example, Baby Suggs was a religious figure within their community, Stamp Paid has many dealings with the church, and Paul D even lived there.

I was absolutely blown away by the foreshadowing and imagery through her allusion to the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Baby Suggs has a weird feeling after her party and suddenly she sees the four horsemen, which is a group made up of schoolteacher, a slave catcher, the sheriff, and a nephew. This is very reminiscent of the four horsemen of the apocalypse mentioned in the book of Revelations in the Bible. While there is so much to say about the horsemen and what they all mean, they are in short the bringers of the end of the world. Thinking about the coming of schoolteacher to 124 makes me think of all the endings that came out of this event. Beloved's life ended, Baby Suggs' life began it's end, Sethe's life was forever altered, and all chances of Denver living a normal life were crushed too. It was not as major of an apocalypse but it was a great shift in life at 124.

Mutual Un-Recognition

After reading Heart of Darkness, the concluding mutual un-recognition between the imperialists and Congolese seemed inapplicable to other scenarios. However, I think the same theme comes up in Beloved. White characters in the story generally do not recognize black characters, which follows the book's discussion of the dehumanizing effects of slavery. While black characters vary in their recognition of white characters, Baby Suggs is the biggest supporter of un-recognition.

Baby Suggs' says that white people are the bad luck in the world, which makes sense due to her experiences with white folks. I think Denver's recollection of Baby Suggs' description is the most powerful example. As Denver remembers, "Grandma Baby said there was no defense - they could prowl at will, change from one mind to another, and even when they thought they were behaving, it was a far cry from what real humans did" (287). Baby Suggs clearly dehumanizes white people for their cruel actions against slaves and violent behaviors.

While white characters in the book held an obvious binary relationship over black characters and dehumanized them, I found it interesting that black characters did the same. Both believed that the others were savage and a threat to their communities. Their mutual un-recognition did not change society's binary of white characters over black characters, but within the post-slavery community, white characters did not hold as much power in the relationship.

Everyone Has Their Matrices

On thing that really stuck out to me when we read the article by Patricia Hill Collins about matrices of domination was the idea that everyone is a part of both a dominant and subordinate group. Once stated it seemed obvious, but I believe that it is a concept that is often overlooked. I think it may be a crucial concept to grasp in order to understand how yo fit into the multiple spheres you live in. It humbles those in power and empowers those who are oppressed.

It wasn't until later in part two of Beloved that I started to notice this idea coming to life in an interesting way. Denver, Sethe, and Beloved are in a power struggle to "own" one another. Sethe believes that Beloved is hers, but so does Denver. And Beloved believes that Sethe is hers and even says that Sethe has her face. The struggle for domination between the three women demonstrates a less obvious form of a matrix of domination. When one thinks of domination in a book such as Beloved  they most likely think of slavery, black and white, male and female; but power struggles can exist within a gender and a race.

Seeing a less conventional matrix of domination play out, where the reader gets to see the individual perspectives in an intimate and unusual way brings the idea of a matrix to life. When you are on one side of a power struggle it is easy to get lost in your feelings on the issue, but when you are able to see all sides of the struggle it makes the stubbornness of contrasting viewpoints come to life. As the rest of the novel progresses I look forward to seeing who comes out on top, if anyone.

Gender in Beloved

One of the things that really makes Beloved stand out as a slavery novel is that it features such complex (and numerous!) female characters. Most of the greatest slavery related books, such as the works of Frederick Douglass and Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, and written about males and often from a male perspective.

Even without considering the racial factor in Beloved, the fact that it is a book by a woman about a woman told from a woman's perspective and that it's become such a well-respected novel is astonishing. A quick look at the statistics of most major literature awards, particularly those for exclusively adult literature, reveal that the books about women and by women receive the least honors. Predictably, books by men about men receive the most.

At the core of this matter is the simple problem that the world is taught to see things from a man's perspective. This is often called the male gaze. Non-male individuals are constantly surrounded by men's stories - created by men, starring men, and from a male perspective - so they learn to accept it and appreciate male stories. Men, however, are hardly ever forced to appreciate women's stories. Even when stories are about women, they're often created by men and for men, thus creating a story that isn't sincerely female or true to the female experience.

Beloved is a perfect triple threat: it's written by a woman, about women, and told from a female perspective. This gives it the ability to approach the topics of slavery and racism from a perspective that isn't usually heard.

When we learn about various types of discrimination in history, we usually learn about one at a time. There was sexism, then there was racism, then there were a few little squabbles over sexual discrimination. The fact of the matter is that all of these types of discrimination have coexisted and overlapped all throughout the course of history. During the fight for women's rights, women of color were often left behind - and later, during the fight against racism, the same thing happened. The recent movie Stonewall is an excellent example of this one-minority-at-a-time mentality; the true heroine of the Stonewall riots, a latina trans woman, was replaced with a white gay man. Apparently, seeing people who fell into two minority categories at once was just too much for the American public.

That's why I think Beloved is such an important novel - it unflinchingly tells the story of those who are doubly wronged, and thus doubly forgotten.

Morrison's Effective Writing Style

Toni Morrison's writing is unique and different from typical authors. We already know her that she uses flashbacks in the middle of her writing, which can be confusing, but also very effective. However, after reading Part II of Beloved, she also uses another method that is unusual. She devotes a chapter each to Sethe, Denver and Beloved. I think this goes back to her use of point of view, except she can really emphasize her ideas because she has an entire chapter to explain it. Also, the reader is pleased because it is much easier to fully understand Morrison's ideas and that character because it is all neatly put together in a single chapter. The individual chapters also allow the reader to distinguish between the major differences in the character's personalities. Sethe is tender and sweet, Denver is jealous and in disbelief, and Beloved is a little self absorbed, but anxious. I think that the changing point of view in between paragraphs and chapters makes Beloved a special and interesting read.

Feminist Themes and The Story of Margaret Garner

I have been consistently impressed by the intersectional feminism throughout Beloved. It seems that traditional feminism, such as the Women’s Liberation Movement and other feminist movements have ignored or even rejected the considerations and representation of black women. I think Toni Morrison does an incredible job of portraying strong female characters and their untold experiences, including topics like objectification, enslavement and rape.

While I was looking up the novel online I realized that the book is actually based on the true story of Margaret Garner, who killed her child with a butcher knife rather than have the child become a slave. Garner, her husband and several other families escaped to Cincinnatti over the frozen Ohio River. Slave catchers and U.S. Marshalls invaded the house of a former slave and found, the Garners. By the time she was found, Margaret had killed one child and wounded the other three, preparing to kill them. While she was tried in court, one abolitionist, Lucy Stone, stated:

“Recalling to everyone's memory the faces of Margaret's children, and of A. K. Gaines, Stone told the packed courtroom: "The faded faces of the Negro children tell too plainly to what degradation the female slaves submit. Rather than give her daughter to that life, she killed it. If in her deep maternal love she felt the impulse to send her child back to God, to save it from coming woe, who shall say she had no right not to do so?”

Margaret Garner, her husband and their youngest child were returned to a slave state with their previous owner. She was supposed to be tried for murder but her owner, Archibald K. Gaines, continuously moved her and she was never found.

If you read about her experiences, it is clear that Margaret Garner was trying to prevent her children from the awful physical, mental and sexual abuse she experienced under Mr. Gaines. Margaret Garner’s case was especially difficult because her children were half black and half white because she was raped by her owner, and therefore, they were subject to feelings of disgrace and sin by those around them.

Toni Morrison does a great job of representing the female perspective in this unimaginable situation. I think Morrison makes it possible for us to understand this decision and the strength of the women involved. The novel develops ideas about women recovering from slavery, sexual abuse, and it also makes us consider the extent of maternal love.

The Magic of Beloved

While there is a lot of debate as to whether the magical realism is a necessary part of Beloved, I think it is what makes the book great. Without it the book would simply be the story of a tortured woman who escaped slavery and killed one of her children. All but one of her remaining children left her because they were afraid of her. Now she struggles to escape memories of slavery while raising her child. It would be fairly straightforward, and likely wouldn't be regarded as one of the greatest books in American literature.

It is the magical realism that puts the book in this category. The ghost of Beloved adds so much symbolism to the book. We can see how Sethe is literally haunted by her past. It gives us a physical manifestation of the fear that is driving everyone away from 124. But perhaps most importantly, it ensures the reader cannot forget what Sethe has done and what she has gone through and reminds them they still don't know the full story the book has to tell.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Intersectionality in Beloved

After reading Collins's "Black Feminist Thought", I started to look at Beloved a bit differently. I think that the article really gave me a different perspective on the book. I started to see how different of a perspective we get of escaped slave women in that time period. There is something so inter-sectional about the book -- with very few POVs from white people, the book gives you a glimpse into what life was really like for these people. 

I started to realize how differently the women are portrayed in the book from how they are portrayed in other aspects of history from that time period. They are described as actual human beings, with emotions, whereas in other parts of history, former slaves are hardly described with any detail.

I think that reading Collins's article gave me different lens on Beloved. I realized how truly inter-sectional the book really is, and how incredible it is to get this amazing (yet fictional) idea of how life was for these African American women. I have always been intrigued by intersectional feminism, and this article gave me a whole different perspective on Toni Morrison's novel.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Between Those Living

In Morrison’s Beloved, Sethe’s desire and aggravation to forget the past is evident. Suddenly when everyone at 124 is innocuously greeted with the presence of Beloved, the past becomes more difficult to evade, not only for Sethe but others as well. Beloved’s being, animate or not, inflicts the inevitability of complete parting from the past and the necessity to confront it. As the communication increases between those at 124 and Beloved, deliberately repressed feelings begin to reappear into their memories. For Sethe, images of events such as: her mother’s death and sounds of the African language once spoken to her as a child, begin to inundate her previously empty thoughts. Forceful and phantom-like, Beloved uses her infantile influence and, at times, coquettish manners as the driving force to unlocking various self-hidden memories.

Connections can be drawn between Beloved’s presence, and Morrison’s explication of the slave narrative. For slaves and former slaves, speech often takes the form of song or metaphor. For example, Paul D is unable to talk about his degrading experiences, however could express them through song. Using the images of stolen milk and a chokecherry tree, Sethe uses a sort of circumlocution to describe the violations and beatings. Because words can’t be conveyed without deathly consequence, stylized expression becomes the way to secretly vent anger or criticism. Thus, artistic expression becomes a matter of survival thus cultivates a sense of previously stripped humanity for slaves and former slaves.

Iron-Eyed Woman

"And if she thought anything, it was No. No. Nono. Nonono. Simple. She just flew. Collected every bit of life she had made, all the parts of her that were precious and fine and beautiful, and carried, pushed, dragged them through the veil, out, away, over there where no one could hurt them. Over there. Outside this place, where they would be safe."
Paul D goes to 124 in search of an explanation after he learns about Sethe's crime. This quote records Sethe's thoughts and how she saw her decision as a simple motherly act. Sethe wanted to secure her children's safety by sending them "over there" into the underworld rather than allow schoolteacher to take them to Sweet Home. This quote shows Sethe's passion for her children and also shows her identification of her children as "the parts of her that were precious and fine and beautiful." Allowing schoolteacher to take her children away would be allowing him to destroy everything good in herself and the only things she has truly loved.

Ethical Ambiguity in Beloved

Right from the start in Beloved, I did not feel a strong attachment to any of the characters, nor did I particularly like any of them. I think that there is a very natural tendency not to like any of the characters particularly after the end of part 1 due to the lack of ethical strength in any of the characters. Throughout most of the book Sethe is our strong female protagonist, and someone whom you immediately want to like, however at the end of Part 1 she murders her baby, and severely injures most of her children leaving doubt in the reader. Beloved of course seems like the friendly long lost sister to Denver, but ends up choking her mother and in my opinion raping Paul. Paul D condemns Sethe for ,in her eyes, an act of love in killing or trying to kill her children, implying that she is a beast (you have two legs not four). Denver seems to be the strong survivor, resilient, and lonely, but she does not confirm Paul's suspicions about Beloved or the morally ambiguous things Beloved is doing, additionally she is completely immature at the age of 18, and blames her mother for everything in her life. Although readers tend to like books where the protagonist and their surrounding minor characters have strong moral ideals, I think that Toni Morrison is definitely challenging us here to read with a different eye.

Beloved: Slave or Sister

While I was not a fan of the Heart of Darkness, I do enjoy Beloved. The mystery behind the character of Beloved contributes to the enjoyment. When we first met Beloved on Sethe's front stoop, every reader has the tendency to attatch the mysterious child ghost and this unexpected visitor as one character. I too believe this, Beloved's telling of where she was and this supposed "bridge" make me think that this ghost comes from Sethe's first daughter, the bridge connecting the land of the dead to that of the living. The question still remains how did a 2 year old toddler become a fully grown ghost, the common representation being that after death, there is no aging, thus the ghost should remain a toddler. 

Due to the fact that this Beloved is grown, I can also make the connection between the slave ship and this "hot", "stuffy", tightly packed environment which Beloved came from. However, I lean towards believing that this is Sethe's daughter because of the unusual name. Is this stranger actually part of the family or only shares in the name of Denver's fallen sister?

Magical Realism in Beloved

In Beloved, the ghost is supposed to symbolize Sethe's past and how the past can haunt your life in the present. But, some have said that the magical realism takes away from the power of the story. I completely disagree with this statement. If the story were to omit the magical element of the story, it would reduce to an interior monologue by Sethe. While this would be interesting, it would be nowhere near as powerful as the way it is now. The physical manifestation of the past is used as a storytelling element and it truly adds something amazing to the novel.

Beloved: Really Magical Realism?

In Beloved, we presume that Beloved (the character) is the ghost of Sethe's daughter.

I would argue that this is untrue.

The point of view I believe to be Sethe, in her head, but stuck in the third person because she has gone a little bit crazy. Why has she gone crazy? Because she killed her daughter. Just or not, Sethe's mind is making itself crazy as the consequence of what she did.

Is Beloved really the ghost of her daughter? Or is that just what Sethe thinks?

Plain and simple.

Morrison's Imagery

Morrison's imagery really conveys feeling in her characters, and settings. For example, when Sethe is pregnant and on the run, the reader can really feel her pain. Morrison also flexes her imagery skills when she is describing what happens when Sethe arrives at 124. She makes the reader understand the difficulty of Sethe's trip, and the disarray it left her body in. Morrison really explores the full palette of the English language, especially when she is creating the different vibes of 124. For example, she uses the way the house looks before everyone leaves to convey a happiness and kind of cheery place, while once everyone leaves she makes it darker and conveys an ominous sort of sad feeling around the house. Being able to convey these kind of emotions in inanimate objects makes Toni Morrison a master of imagery.

Point of View in Beloved

Toni Morrison is an expert at writing beautiful narration. Beloved is told in third person omniscient, but also from a switching third person limited perspective. The narration switches between the points of views of many different characters in the novel, and as it switches it often adopts that character's tone of voice.

The most obvious example of the narration adopting a character's voice is when the narrator switches to Schoolteacher's point of view when he comes to kidnap Sethe. Suddenly the narrator is calling the colored people slurs, talking about Sethe as if she's an animal, and using the n-word in nearly every sentence.

When the narration switches to Paul D's perspective, the language becomes harsher and sharper. When it goes to Denver's point of view, it becomes more emotional and immature.

Toni Morrison uses this third person limited switch very carefully. We'll often begin by learning about a character (like Baby Suggs, for instance) through another character's point of view, and after a while the narration will go to that character's train of thought and we'll get some really interesting insight into that character.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Gender Based Character Depth

Something that I've found interesting in our transition from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness to Toni Morrison's Beloved is the drastic shift of character depth from male to female. Conrad voiced some very strong opinions on womanhood and their value in society relative to a man. He rarely wrote women into the book at all, and when he did, they were witless, emotional, and dependent. They were mostly symbols and given little to no agency in their short cameos.

Though Morrison does not quite reduce her male characters to purely symbols, her depiction of men frequently comes off as one dimensional. They seem to be driven purely by lust and anger, and they never seem to have the emotional or mental grit that their female counterparts have. The Sweet Home boys take to cows because of a lack of women, Sethe's sons abandon her, Paul D can't ignore Beloved's shining, and Halle couldn't live with himself after he sees Sethe violated. It's clear that Morrison wants the women of the novel to be the models of righteousness and good, which is refreshing.

"Crazy He Calls Me, Sure I'm Crazy" - Carl Sigman

In both Sula and Beloved, Toni Morrison creates male characters that have been greatly scarred by what they have experienced and witnessed. Most characters in both of these novels have all seen terrible things, but there are a few select men in each novel who are so heavily affected by their experiences that they somewhat lose their sanity. Shadrack and Halle, from Sula and Beloved, were both completely changed after they had witnessed some horrible event.

Shadrack was a character in Sula who went off to world war one and came back shell shocked and became obsessed with bringing order to the world. He creates a holiday called national suicide day in order to make death less random by planning the day of his death. Along with creating this holiday he is more withdrawn from society and is regarded as crazy by most of the characters in the novel. All of his madness stemmed from his experience in World War One. Halle, from Beloved, was the husband of the Sethe and one of the children of Baby Suggs. He worked hard to buy his mother's freedom and was a loving husband to Sethe until, one day he witnessed Sethe getting raped, and he became completely catatonic. Both Halle and Shadrack were completely changed by what they witnessed.

Accepted vs Denied

Throughout the application process, many people have told me, and I assume everyone else, that whether you are accepted or denied, it is not a reflection of you as a person or your abilities. I do not completely agree with this outlook. If you put everything you have into the application process and are not accepted into the school of your dreams then 90% of the time that means that someone else beat you. Is this a bad thing? Sort of. Yes it means that there are people out there that are better than you, but that is not a bad thing. Unless you are the best in the world at something, someone will always be better than you, and that's ok. It doesn't mean you're bad or that you're inferior to those who did get in, it means that on paper the others looked like better investments. If you do get into the school of your dreams, you should feel very good because the school of your dreams is also the school of other's dreams. No matter where anyone decides to go to school, I believe that they will be happy there.


I think Beloved is one of the most complex and unique characters in Toni Morrison's Beloved. Whether or not Beloved is a ghost or not is beside the point. Beloved seems like this innocent and sweet young girl that is only trying to find her mother's love. Beloved's name is one of the most fascinating characteristics about her. The literal definition of beloved is a person who is greatly loved. I think in the story, Beloved is completing actions to live up to her rare name. She is always seeking attention from everybody in her surroundings. She continually tries helping Sethe to get her attention. I think the attention a person gives to Beloved, in her mind, is that person's way of loving her. When she becomes unsatisfied with the amount of love Sethe gives her, she goes to Paul D and starts demanding his attention. I think her character is annoying and complex. I think she is a dangerous person because she is willing to do anything for attention. I think the reason behind her cravings for attention are due to the fact that she died at a young age. She is now looking for attention so she can be loved again. Clearly, Beloved is an interesting character due to her name and the actions she takes to live up to her name.

The Process of Getting to College

College is something I have always looked forward to. My childhood has been phenomenal and I enjoy high school. However, ever since I was little, the thought of college and being on my own is exciting to me. Figuring out where you want to go is an interesting process, but it's also stressful.

There are some things that I don't agree with in the college application process, specifically standardized testing. Obviously you have to do well in the classroom and have good grades. But an ACT score doesn't define who you are. Rather, a four year reflection and a GPA proves a lot more in my opinion. A score you got on an ACT on a Saturday morning doesn't show your work ethic or how you are as an individual. In college and beyond, how you treat people and how willing you are to put the work in will take you much farther than a score you got on a standardized test. I feel more students should be able to have the opportunity to go to the school they desire especially if they're a hardworking student. In the end, no matter where you end up, you can find success anywhere as long as you put yourself out there and get involved. Because of this, I try not to get stressed about where I go. I just focus on finding the fit for me.

Oh yeah and another thing, the price of college. I'm not going to get into that.

Mr. Garner's Weird Attitude

On page 172, there is a strange conversation (if it can even be called that) between Baby Suggs and Mr. Garner. The Bodwin sister has just told Baby Suggs that she and her brother don't agree with any kind of slavery, Mr. Garner's kind included. What exactly is Mr. Garner's kind of slavery? I suppose it's that he didn't beat Baby Suggs, fed her, kept her warm, and he allowed Halle to buy her freedom. Essentially, his kind of slavery is allowing his slaves a few basic human rights (food, not being beaten, etc), but still owning them and forcing them to work for no pay (Halle was allowed to buy his mother's freedom, but he paid for it by being rented out to other plantations and doing more forced labor). When the Bodwin sister says she doesn't stand for Mr. Garner's kind of slavery, he immediately tries to defend himself by interrogating Baby Suggs. He asks her questions in a way that will only frame him as a "good guy," a slave owner who doesn't mistreat his slaves. Yet, as a slave owner, he is in essence still a bad person doing the wrong things, no matter how high he thinks of himself for feeding and giving shelter (basic human rights!) to Baby Suggs. Mr. Garner seems to take a great amount of pride in being a "good" slave owner. He seems to get some kind of creepy power trip from telling his slaves how well he treats them. And while there is something to be said about how he does treat them better than most other slave owners, it doesn't change the fact that he still believes that owning other people is morally acceptable. Also, his use of emotionally manipulative tactics, like framing himself as better than Baby Suggs' previous owners, is unsettling and, if his being a slave owner didn't already tip you off, marks him as a very untrustworthy character.

In short, Mr. Garner would like us to think of him as a good person, when in reality he's creepy and should not be trusted.

Does the Supernatural Element of Beloved Detract from the Novel?

One of the problems with having a supernatural element in a work is that it can sometimes detract from the seriousness of the story. But at this point in the novel I do not feel like it detract from the novel in any way. If anything, I feel like the supernatural element enhances the story. Having Beloved reborn and haunting Sethe helps to convey the theme that no one can escape their past. And, overall, I feel like it makes the novel much more interesting. I do not think that the novel would be the same without Beloved's reborn form. It helps to build tension within the novel, and helps the reader understand that Sethe cannot escape her past.

The Love Triangle of 124

In this instance I do not mean love triangle as a romantic kind of love, but rather as many mysterious kinds all mixed together. As we become deeper intrenched in the world of Beloved, the relationships between Sethe, Denver, and Beloved become increasingly complicated. When we throw Paul D into the mix it complicates things further, because he effects all of the women in different ways.

It is obvious from Beloved's confession that she came back to see Sethe's face to Denver  that Beloved's number one priority is Sethe's attention. But Denver so deeply craves Beloved's love and attention that she is willing to overlook some of Beloved's questionable actions. Even after she is suspicious that Beloved may have been the one to strangle Sethe with her ghostly powers, she still says "Beloved was hers" (123).  It becomes evident that Denver resents Sethe for bringing Paul D to 124 and running out the baby ghost, who was her only company, her only person. Denver does not even take the time to worry that Beloved may be out to hurt Sethe, because "so unrestricted was her need to love another" (123). The conflict comes in when Denver would do anything to keep Beloved's love in her possession, even if it meant hurting Sethe, while Beloved would choose Sethe over Denver in a heartbeat.

Paul D complicates things because, Sethe, unaware of the effect Paul D has on both Denver and Beloved, loves how Paul D has the ability to make her feel like she could still make a life for herself. Sethe is beginning to move on but it seems as though Denver and Beloved want her to remember the past. They want the baby's ghostly presence to continue, so while Sethe is finally ready to put that in the past and make a life with Paul D, Denver is using Beloved to counteract Paul D's ability to drive the ghost out of the house. Now Denver has someone to hold on to, even if that someone was never hers in the first place.

So it seems as though Denver wants Beloved, Beloved wants Sethe, Sethe wants Paul D but thinks she already has Beloved and Denver, as she is always saying she loves them both like they're her own. I look forward to seeing how the dynamic at 124 progresses for the rest of Beloved. 

An untold story

As we discussed in class, Beloved brings a new light to slavery that we have never learned about in school before. Unlike Fredrick Douglass (as far as I can remember), Beloved shows the horrors slaves went through while in captivation and while gaining their freedom. I was traumatised by the scene with Paul D when he was chained to all the other slaves, unable to speak or move. Once more when he had the iron bit in his mouth for an unknown amount of time making him, once more, unable to speak or even swallow. Sethe herself had abort some unwanted babies and then send her own children ahead to gain their freedom, unsure if she would ever see them again. Despite this books blatant fictional plot revolving around a ghost, Beloved gave me a new view on slavery with a first hand perspective of how horrible it was.

Beloved and Sula

In an article from the academic journal African American Review, author Carolyn Jones attempts to find a connection between the two Toni Morrison novels, Sula and Beloved.  She eventually finds a connection in the biblical figure Cain.  In Sula, the main character kills, whether or not voluntarily, both the little boy dubbed "Chicken Little" as well as her mother Hannah, who she supposedly watched burn to death.  At this point in Beloved, it is hinted at that Beloved has come back from the dead in order to enact some sort of revenge onto her mother, Sethe.  It is not known at this point for what reason Beloved wishes to seek vengeance, however following the connection with the biblical story of Cain, Sethe must have committed an act of murder against someone.  But who?

[Click HERE for article excerpt]

The Right to Take a Life

Can taking a life ever be justified?

It takes one word to answer this question and yet neither answer is better than the other.

If you were put in a situation where killing a person meant saving the life of another, how could you make that decision. By letting one live you are essentially killing the other.

Although this is a hypothetical question and you would probably never be put in this circumstance, it brings up a question that we all attempt to hide from.

Is one life ever more valuable than another? Or does it matter if more lives are saved than the number of lives taken? And, if so, how do we weigh the value of one person's life?

If you are actually reading this then you might be expecting me to provide you an answer at this point. But, I can't.

Perspectives in Beloved

Most books are voiced by a single narrator. Many books make use of various perspectives of different narrators, often exchanging point of view in different chapters (sometimes marked by their name as a title-- personally I'm thinking of A Song of Ice and Fire but it's fairly common.) Usually each character narrates a different event, or two or more widely different perspectives on an event. Beloved, of course, uses absolutely none of these methods. Each chapter tends to include all three main character's points of view, sometimes mixing in the very same sentence. There are no marked boundaries like chapters. Their voices and perspectives all blend seamlessly together, and occasionally are indistinguishable. You might even say that some lines are both (any mix of Sethe, Paul D, and Denver) characters speaking together. It's a fascinating style to read.

One of the things that I find interesting about how blended the perspectives are is that it makes it even  more obvious when the character's voices are different. Denver's perspective sticks out against Sethe and Paul D's, because she often disagrees with them. She's also completely rooted in the present, while Sethe and Paul D constantly think of the past. I'm interested in seeing how the voices of the characters blend or change over the course of the book-- will Sethe and Paul D still sound similar by the end? If Denver understands Sethe better, or if Sethe manages to deal with the past and move onto the present, will their perspectives begin to 'blend' better? I have no idea what's going to happen with their relationships to each other, but I'd like to see how that relates to the narrating style.

The Supernatural

It has not yet been established in the book whether Beloved is a ghost or not. However, there is plenty of evidence that points to the conclusion that she is in fact a ghost. The book introduces Beloved as a fully dressed woman who walks out of a body of water. This is the first bit of evidence that makes us believe there is something definitely off about Beloved. Her skin is also described to be perfectly smooth despite a few scratches on her forehead. Beloved continues to act weirdly by drinking glass after glass of water. Paul D and Denver even claim to have seen Beloved lift a rocking chair with one hand even though she claims to be feeling weak all the time.

I think all of this evidence points to Beloved being a ghost. She has many ghostly characteristics. Also let's not forget the fact that she has the same name as what is written on the tombstone of Sethe's baby. Coincidence? I think not.