Beloved – Toni Morrison

Oct 26

Beloved – Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988 with this tragic tale. (#11 on the list for this reader, for those of you keeping score at home.) Sethe is a wife and mother of four. She wants what most of us want out of life: a family that is safe and happy. She has been conditioned to not love too hard or too long; Sethe is a former slave. She is venturing into the world as a “Free” woman. The lengths that Sethe goes to and the horrendous acts that she endures, and commits, in the name of family will break your heart. Ms. Morrison also weaves in a supernatural aspect that surprisingly makes perfect sense. The ghostly occurrences are kicked into high gear with the entrance of Paul D, a former coworker of Sethe’s. His presence brings calls forth Sethe’s past in an entirely mystical fashion, embodied by a woman called Beloved. Paul D warns Sethe that her love for her daughter Denver and Beloved is “too thick”, and that kind of love only brings pain and heartache. Her fear drives her at one to commit an unspeakable act; later that fear keeps her housebound: “This here’s all there is and all there needs to be.”

The scenes of horrendous racism and crimes against human beings are cringe-worthy. Ms. Morrison finds a way to tell the story of being a woman, who happened to be a slave, in a surprisingly new light. In the words of Paul D, telling about a friend’s woman: “She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them an give them back to me in all the right order.”

I loved this story for its uniqueness, historical importance, and the way that it made me feel sort of off-kilter the whole way through.

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