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A summary of events in beloved by toni morrison

I've included some weblinks below which were extremely helpful. The child's ghost, Beloved--so named because that was all Sethe could get put on her tombstone, has returned to 124 Bluestone Road as an 18 year old woman to haunt her mother. The book details Sethe's efforts to come to terms with her grief and guilt and quiet the turbulent ghost.

Beloved is apparently also supposed to be a symbol for Slavery in general. Sethe must come to terms not just with her action, but with the fact of Slavery as a whole. One initial fact is very troublesome. If slavery is so awful why didn't Sethe kill herself, instead of just killing the baby? One thinks of the Jews at Massada. When the Romans finally took the fortress they found that all of the defenders--men, women and children--had killed themselves, rather than surrender.

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It seems to me that there's something heroic in this, as opposed to the murder of a defenceless child. Similarly, polls show a vast dichotomy in opinion on mercy killing between the healthy and the dying. Healthy people are more likely to support euthanasia, while those who are actually dying oppose it. We can usually find reasons why other peolpes lives might not be worth living, but we cling to our own.

I suppose it's significant that the character who most forcefully argues that the murder was wrong is Paul D--the male character. The essence of Morrison's writing is supposed to be that black women have had to face a double burden, first as blacks then as women.

As a white male I'll admit that I don't understand how Sethe could have killed her child and not also killed herself and this made it extremely difficult for me to relate to her.

There are a number of other books that deal with the theme of responsibilty for the death of a child--Sophie's Choice see Orrin's reviewFearless Rafael Yglesias and Ironweed see Orrin's review. Sophie was interred at Auschwitz and was allowed to save either her son or her daughter from death.

But in all of these stories, the child's death is beyond the control of the parent, so we can identify with them and we feel their guilt all the more acutely. As to Morrison's style, I suppose that she is trying to render her tale in a sort of afro-mystic manner. I found it merely annoying. One of the themes in Beloved, I thought, was not only the mother's guilt over the obvious, but the incredible power of love between mother and child.

This love is different from other loves; perhaps because a child really does evolve from a woman's flesh a man's too, but it's not the same. This is why, I think, Sethe flipped out so much when those nasty boys attacked her and took her milk.

To her, that was the worst thing possible, worse than rape even, because a mother's instinct according to Morrison, it seems is to protect her children BEFORE she protects herself.

This connects to your point about why didn't Sethe kill herself too. She killed her child because in her mind, this was the only way to protect her. Think of it as protection, not murder.

Once captured, Sethe would have absolutely no control over the fate of her child. The only way she could control the fate of her child, her flesh and blood, was to kill her. And she didn't kill herself for two reasons: She lived to protect her children, not to protect herself.

Her own sense of self was pretty much nonexistant, slavery took that away from her, for the most part. She was merely the means to her children's survival. Oddly enough, I think she cared less about her own survival than she did her children's survival, and that's why she killed the baby, not herself.

Sounds backwards, of course, but that kind of adds to the drama and the tension.

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That's one thing we talked about. Guilt made her crazy. Was she right in killing her child? Not in my mind. What she chose to do was perhaps not the greatest choice. I guess what I mean is her reaction was something I understood; her action itself was not.

We also talked about whether or not Beloved was real. Was she a real ghost? Could other people see her? Was she purely a product of Sethe's mind -- and Denver's? I thought it was sort of interesting to consider it both ways.

I'm not convinced she was a literal ghost. I didn't get the weirdo pages of Beloved's inner dialogue. When I read stuff like that I always wonder if the author is just messing with the readers. Kinda making it look like it Means Something when in reality it's just a bunch of nice words.

I for one have no interest in seeing the movie. Can't imagine Oprah as Sethe. She's just too damned rich!