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Beloved
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message 1: by Diane , Armchair Tour Guide (last edited Jun 14, 2018 09:12AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane  | 12949 comments Start discussion for Beloved by Toni Morrison here.

Summary (from LitLovers)

Set in rural Ohio several years after the Civil War, this profoundly affecting chronicle of slavery and its aftermath is Toni Morrison's greatest novel, a dazzling achievement, and the most spellbinding reading experience of the decade.

Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Sethe, its protagonist, was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free.

She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe's new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.

Discussion Questions

1. Consider the extent to which slavery dehumanizes individuals by stripping them of their identity, destroying their ability to conceive of the self. Consider, especially, Paul and how he can't determine whether screams he hears are his or someone else's. How do the other characters reflect self-alienation?

2. Discuss the different roles of the community in betraying and protecting the house at 124. What larger issue might Morrison be suggesting here about community.

3. What does Beloved's appearance represent? What about her behavior? Why does she finally disappear—what drives her departure? And why is the book's title named for her?

4. Talk about the choice Sethe made regarding her children when schoolteacher arrives to take them all back to Sweet Home. Can her actions be justified—are her actions rational or irrational?

5. What does the narrator mean by the warning at the end: this is not a story to pass on." Is he right...or not.


Parikhit | 13 comments I am so glad to have found a discussion thread on 'Beloved'. I read this book recently and I was spellbound. The writing hit me-subtle and genuine it got into my skin. Anybody joining in for the discussion?


message 3: by Amy (new) - rated it 2 stars

Amy | 49 comments I will be! Only on page 60 now and I`m not sure I`m understanding everything that is going on!


Jeremy C. Brown | 14 comments I have to say I'm loving the writing and it's a spell bounding story, I'm not quite finished. However I am having a difficult time getting past all the sexual imagery and vulgar language. I understand she's trying to be "real" but for me I feel Morrison is causing me to miss a lot of the meaning she was hoping for me to get at the expense of being distracted and caught off guard by this.


Parikhit | 13 comments Amer wrote: "I will be! Only on page 60 now and I`m not sure I`m understanding everything that is going on!"

I had similar feelings. I had to reread chapters in order to find out if I was missing out on something or if I understood the whole thing. But the story comes in abrupt fragments. There is a constant switch between past and present and believe me it does demand a whole lot of patience. I could only read this book in complete solitude unlike many other books which I read while commuting.


message 6: by Anam (new) - added it

Anam | 10 comments I agree. I am having difficulty as well with the language that Morrison is using. I am trying to get engrossed in the novel and I am finding that bit troublesome.


message 7: by Amy (new) - rated it 2 stars

Amy | 49 comments Almost finished now and I feel like as the book went on, or as more fragments came together, I was able to follow the story better. I feel that she may have left out too much extraneous detail of what was going on outside of 124 that it didn`t provide me with sufficient context to understand.

But what a picture she paints! There were some incidents that I had a hard time digesting due to the sheer inhumanity of them.

I was also left wondering if my distance (both in time and space) from where the novel was set contributed to my lack of comprehension. I feel like I finished (almost) the novel and would like to have understood it more. Like I missed many details in the book because I simply didn`t recognize them. Or is that reading too much into it?


Jeremy C. Brown | 14 comments I agree with all ya all about it being a book that is easy to miss things unless you're really concentrating. I read the first 10 pages 3 times and caught something I missed previously after each read. It's like poetic pros, there's a lot packed in there and very quickly! It makes it fun though.


message 9: by Amy (new) - rated it 2 stars

Amy | 49 comments Has anyone watched the movie adaptation with Oprah? It clarified quite a bit for me. I generally don't like resorting to a movie, but this was really helpful.


Parikhit | 13 comments I haven't watched the movie.

I agree that this book is way beyond anything I have ever read. In fact once I finished the book I reread some chapters to clear the mist of doubt. But definitely I need to reread the entire novel for there are so many things, I am sure, I missed.


message 11: by Diane , Armchair Tour Guide (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane  | 12949 comments I just started reading the book today and a about 1/3 of the way through. Wow! Such beautifully lyrical, yet disturbing, writing! I agree that you really need to pay attention as it is easy to miss many of the subtle details. I am ashamed to admit that this book has been in my house for probably 16 years and I am just getting around to reading it. It is also my first Toni Morrison book to read.


message 12: by Anam (new) - added it

Anam | 10 comments I am glad to say that with the passage of time I am getting use to the language of the book. The book is starting to come together and I can't wait to finish it. I am confused about Paul D's reference to the "bit" in the mouth that did not allow him to talk? If anyone would clarify that part of the book. :) Its on page 84.


message 13: by Nidhi (last edited Jun 19, 2012 09:51PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nidhi (digressingmind) | 2 comments It's a piece of metal (iron mostly) that is forced into the mouth that prevents speaking. I think she used it figuratively as she does with the tin box (in later chapters) to illustrate the oppression of the slaves back then.
Its a tough book, readers kind of oscillate between extreme reactions of absolute hate to pure delight. Either ways its well worth the time. Enjoy!


Parikhit | 13 comments I couldn't agree more with all of you. Morrison does not dwell on the oppresion and inhumanity but writes it as a way of life back then. A state of helplessness yet the sufferers have succumbed to the state of affairs!

Morrison's writing is beautiful.


message 15: by Jody (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jody Curtis (jodycurtis) | 6 comments Just finished Beloved and feel like I need to re-read it, that I missed some important details. For example, when Beloved was a ghost I was OK with that image, but when Beloved was a flesh and blood person, I kind of got lost.


message 16: by Diane , Armchair Tour Guide (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane  | 12949 comments Jody wrote: "Just finished Beloved and feel like I need to re-read it, that I missed some important details. For example, when Beloved was a ghost I was OK with that image, but when Beloved was a flesh and bloo..."

I'm feeling the same way. I am about 3/4 of the way through, but feel I need to backtrack to pick up some details I missed along the way.


message 17: by Jody (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jody Curtis (jodycurtis) | 6 comments Wonder if any other readers could share their interpretation of Beloved as poltergeist vs. Beloved as reincarnated human?


Parikhit | 13 comments I felt Beloved was a metaphor. More so a personification of the inner turmoil that was always lodged within Seth. I do lack a clear understanding and agree that there is a lot I need to pick up.


message 19: by Jody (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jody Curtis (jodycurtis) | 6 comments I think I'd say the character (murdered baby, ghost, mysterious returning and then ever-more controlling woman) represented the horrors of slavery over several generations--the Middle Passage, and beyond. No matter how much blacks and whites wanted to repress, forget, and move on, the horror was imprinted on their dna and it morphed and reappeared in various ways that twisted the lives of future generations. It's the "rememory" that won't go away. Does that about sum it up?


Parikhit | 13 comments Jody wrote: "I think I'd say the character (murdered baby, ghost, mysterious returning and then ever-more controlling woman) represented the horrors of slavery over several generations--the Middle Passage, and ..."

It does. Reading about the cruelty alone is appalling, I can't imagine living it.


message 21: by Diane , Armchair Tour Guide (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane  | 12949 comments Jody wrote: "I think I'd say the character (murdered baby, ghost, mysterious returning and then ever-more controlling woman) represented the horrors of slavery over several generations--the Middle Passage, and ..."

I totally agree. That sums it up perfectly.


Jeremy C. Brown | 14 comments I'm curious to know more about the real lady who the story was loosely based on.


Parikhit | 13 comments Jeremy wrote: "I'm curious to know more about the real lady who the story was loosely based on."

It is based on a true story to a certain extent, I am surprised!


Jeremy C. Brown | 14 comments wikipedia: "Beloved is a novel by the American writer Toni Morrison, published in 1987. Set during 1873 soon after the American Civil War (1861–1865), it is based on the true story of the African-American slave, Margaret Garner, who temporarily escaped slavery during 1856 in Kentucky by fleeing to Ohio, a free state. A posse arrived to retrieve her and her children by the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which gave slave owners the right to pursue slaves across state borders. Margaret killed her two-year-old daughter rather than allow her to be recaptured."


message 25: by Mtowery (new)

Mtowery I read Beloved many years ago, at a time when I was also reading quite a bit of history about the antebellum period and women's lives.

I was stunned at the end of reading it. After everything I'd read about slavery (including some of the slave narratives collected in the 1930s), this book gave me a real window into how horrible slavery was--that a woman would kill her child rather than have that child be taken into slavery.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 101 comments The writing in this story was beautiful, stunning imagery in poetic prose, as someone already stated. It was indeed graphic and horrific, but the style was so beautiful that it didn't seem to grate on me as it normally might have.

I was a bit confused by the end, though: was an adult Beloved actually there, witnessed by the townspeople? Or was it all in Sethe's head? And I guess I didn't follow what happened to Denver, although I felt awful for her, having to try to keep all of that together.


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