Blog Post 9: Passages

Hi everyone,

As I mentioned at the end of class today, our reading for Monday presents us with another kind of challenge in this challenging novel. Just as we’re becoming more adept at grappling with the narrative, historical, and ethical questions of Morrison’s writing, we’re confronted in this section with a different kind of experimental writing that seems to raise many of the issues we’ve been talking about so far — memory, trauma, family dynamics, ownership and control — in a new and different mode of writing.

So for this blog post, you should spend some time thinking and writing about the experimental sections that appear towards the end of our section for Monday. Here are a few things you might consider: what’s it like to read these? How do we have to read these differently from the rest of the novel (or from novels overall, for that matter)? What seem to be the important features here in terms of form and style? You’re also free to respond to these pieces in whatever critical, analytical way seems useful to you, as long as you ground your thinking in some quotation and close analysis of the text there.

Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post — click the “Leave a Comment” link at the top of the post. It should be at least 250 words, and is due by midnight on Sunday, October 30th. After class on Monday, you should return to this thread and post a response to one classmate’s post by class time Wednesday the 2nd. If you have any questions, let me know via email.

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23 thoughts on “Blog Post 9: Passages

  1. Jessica Pavia
    Blog Post 9

    Starting from page 236 to the end of our reading, there is a more organized switching between narratives happening. However more challenging, the first chapter is from Sethe, the second Denver, and the third Beloved–the first real internal narrative from Beloved. In Sethe’s narrations, there is a release from her guilt and a feeling of peace that Beloved understands why Sethe killed her, as well as an excitement for what is to come now that her daughter is back. In Denver’s chapter, we find out how scared Denver is of her mother, and wishes for this father figure she has never met before, a figure that only exists in stories told by Baby Suggs. There’s this need of safety that only an outside force can provide for her. And then there’s Beloved’s two moments of narrative, one that is written in broken text that parallels her stunted childhood and inability to grow, another that is strong and signals her transition from death to rebirth.
    Then there’s the broken up narrations that rotate between the three women. Written in what seems to be poetic form, there is this conflict between who owns Beloved, or at least her being. This sudden switch into poetry was odd for me, and at first I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to read it in a different way. The first piece is between Sethe and Beloved, a conversation between mother and a child back from the dead. This piece is filled with desperation to start over as well as a joy that her daughter is back. She asks Beloved “You came back because of me?” and insists “They can’t hurt us no more” (254). It’s a heartbreaking conversation between two people so utterly connected.
    Denver’s pieces were a bit harder for me to work through, or even figure out whose narrative they were. Morrison writes Denver wanting to protect Beloved in the same obsessive way as Sethe. But unlike Sethe’s, her pieces are not as thought through/figured out, probably because she is still a young woman despite her storyline so far. Something that Morrison stresses is how Denver drank Beloved’s blood. That is mentioned on page 243, 255, and 256. I think Morrison is showing how easily manipulated memory can be, especially Denver’s. In these passages, Denver shows how she often becomes fascinated about memories–the stories of her father her grandmother told her, about how “He was too good…From the beginning…he was too good for the world” (245), and then later feeling this connection to Beloved because she “drank [her] blood” (256). Having not been through the same trauma as her mother, Denver’s memory can risk being more innocent.

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  2. Rebekah Clapham
    Beloved 208-256

    In this section of the book, Toni Morrison introduces a new, confusing style of writing. This section was harder to understand than the rest of the novel, and was frustrating to read because I felt I was missing a lot by not comprehending the dialogue and symbolic imagery/references. This part of the novel was represented in a stream of consciousness monologues. The writing style/narrative style is unique to each character (Beloved, Sethe, and Denver) and helps to further develop their character by telling the reader what each character wants/values. It also seems representative of each character’s fragmented identity, and shows how grounded each of the three women’s identity is in each other. In this section, Sethe, Beloved and Denver’s narratives blur together, suggesting their identities are conflated together and dependent on each other. Reading these narratives reminded me of Stamp Paid’s comment on page 235 that the thoughts of the women of 124 were “unspeakable thoughts, unspoken.” It seems that this new section with the new narrative, stream of unconsciousness style, is finally the women speaking their unspoken words—acknowledging the trauma they have all tried so hard to bury. In this section the reader can see how the trauma has affected each of the women differently. Sethe, who speaks first, although trying to express her “thick love” (239) to Beloved cannot stop talking about Schoolteacher and what he did to her. In this section, we get to see how deeply Sethe’s traumatic experience has affected her, and how the return of Beloved has resurfaced feelings she has spent her whole life trying to suppress. While she talks about how much she loves Beloved, Beloved is also a reminder of her trauma and thus she cannot think about her love for Beloved without remembering her traumatic past. Sethe also always smiles when she thinks about or looks at Beloved suggesting that maybe Beloved’s return, and Beloved not being angry with Sethe, has allowed Sethe to start to be able to think about her past and start to heal, rather than just suppressing the dark memories.
    Denver’s dialogue is different—Denver seems to focus on the family as a whole. Denver seems fixated on family bonds—revealing her suppressed, unspoken pain of not having grown up in a complete family. This is specifically shown when she talks about the love she has for her father, as well as the intense love she has for Beloved. In this section, Denver reveals she has always been somewhat scared of Sethe and Sethe’s capabilities. Having lived with just Sethe for much of her life, Denver seems to feel lonely and abandoned by the rest of her family. Beloved’s return allows for a sort of family unity and completeness Denver was never able to feel before. In a more general sense, Denver’s preoccupation with her incomplete, isolated family seems to represent the construct of the black family’s suffering, and destruction by slavery. Even though Denver feels more complete with Beloved’s return, Beloved is a ghost, thus suggesting the damage done by slavery can never be repaired. Lastly, Beloved’s narrative, which lacks proper punctuation and grammar seems indicative of Beloved’s true age. Beloved also focuses on her senses in this section—describing things she can see and repeating a desire for a “hot thing” (252). This highlights how infantile Beloved truly is. Even though Sethe, Denver, and Beloved are happy to be reunited as a family, Beloved’s infant-like mindset reveals how despite the women’s strong desire to just be a united, happy family, and put the past behind them, slavery has destroyed their family beyond repair, and the past still deeply haunts them (literally with Beloved’s return, and figuratively). This section of the novel seems to imply that the past can never truly stay in the past.

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    • I also found this section to be very hard to understand as well. As I stated in my blog post, when Morrison states how white slave owners also endured hardship during the time of slavery. I found this to be totally confusing but seem to understand what she meant after discussing it in class. I do like your analysis about how Beloved is infantile because there is no punctuation taking place during her narrative indicating that she is in fact speaking like she was at the time when she died. I also liked your interpretation that since Beloved is a ghost, that any damage that transpired during slavery can never be rectified. You analyze very well throughout the reading.

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  3. I want to focus on the form of the narration in the section from page 226 to 233, I think that here is a good example of Toni Morrison’s experimental narration. Starting on page 226, there is an interesting shift of focalization, from external and sometimes omniscient to internal focalization through what appears to be an internal dialogue with the use of the pronoun «I» standing for Sethe. Following the course of the narrative, we can assume that «you» refers to Sethe’s baby whom she recently concluded to be Beloved. Thus this internal dialogue takes the form of a story told to her daughter: «Thank God I don’t have to rememory or say a thing because you know it. All. You know I never would a left you. Never.» (226). I read this mention of «rememory» as not having to recount her past to Beloved, since the latter would know of it, being Sethe’s daughter. However, this is simply impossible because this recollection starts off before Beloved was even born, which makes the use of the pronoun «you» paradoxical in itself. In this section I think that Sethe is in a way incorporating Beloved in her past at Sweet home: «if Mrs Gardner didn’t need me right there in the kitchen, I could get a chair and you and me could set out there while I did the vegetables.» (227) ; «you was too little to remember the quarters. […] Me, you and your daddy slept by the wall.» (230). Hence, she is symbolically granting existence to Beloved in the narrative of a time in which she didn’t in fact exist, physically.
    At first, this section appears to be the story of a fragment of Sethe’s life told to her daughter: «This is the first time I’m telling it and I’m telling it to you because it might help explain something to you although I know you don’t need me to do it. To tell of even think over it. You don’t have to listen either, if you don’t want to.» (227-8). The narrative is constructed as stream of consciousness writing, since in terms of literary narrative conventions this is not a dialogue. The experimental aspect of the form, in my opinion resides in an ambiguous merging between mother and daughter. This conveys the idea of the mother’s memory being transmitted to her baby because originally they were one and the same body, thus person. Which would explain why Sethe seems convinced that Beloves knows it «All» (226). This may illustrate the mother’s perception of her maternal link to her daughter, and the assumption of a unrestricted understanding of Sethe by Beloved.

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  4. The first chapter in the second part of Beloved is very powerful and draws light to many different aspects of what black people had to endure during the time of slavery. There appears to be a lot of exploitation that is a part of slavery for both the slaves themselves as well for the white slave owners. Furthermore, Morrison states in this part of the novel that the slave owners are impacted negatively through slavery just as blacks were. I am not sure if I am interpreting this correctly since I really can’t see how slave owners could have been impacted negatively through slavery. The only thing I can think of is that they were forced by their parents and other family members to take part in slavery and had no way out. However, I believe that if they didn’t want to participate in owing slaves, they could have easily moved to the north. This interpretation came on page 234 when Stamp Paid says “White people believed that whatever the manners, under every dark skin was a jungle. Swift unnavigable waters, swinging screaming baboons, sleeping snakes, red gums ready for their sweet white blood. In a way… they were right… But it wasn’t the jungle blacks brought with them to this place from the other (livable) place. It was the jungle white folks planted in them. And it grew. It spread… until it invaded the whites who had made it… Made them bloody, silly, worse than even they wanted to be, so scared were they of the jungle they had made. The screaming baboon lived under their own white skin; the red gums were their own.” It is hard for me to accept that white slave owners were victims of this as well. They were not the ones being whipped for making a simple mistake, but rather were the ones doing the whipping. They could have easily said that slavery and the beating and raping and whatever other horrible actions that they were doing to slaves was wrong and inhumane. Few may have done this but the majority did not. Maybe there is something that I am missing but I have a hard time sympathizing with slave owners.

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    • I think it is really interesting how you while reading, you picked up on what we discussed in class on Monday— the fact that slave owners were impacted by slavery, just like slaves were. This was not something I considered, possibly just because of what you stated; how absurd of an idea it really is. If this was in fact what Morrison was intending, I think it is unusual how she could enter this mindset, especially as a black woman herself, capturing her own ancestor’s history. I agree with you, in that it is indeed hard to accept this perspective on the situation, but I think it is one we need to consider. In history (especially the dark parts of our history) we need to take under consideration all sides of the story, so that we never repeat it. This makes me think of Nazi Germany, in how we cannot only consider the Jews horrible experience— we must also look into how this horrible time in history happened in the first place, and it also begins within the Nazis doing the horrible deeds themselves. In Morrison’s narrative, we see Sethe’s point of view, Denver’s point of view, and Beloved’s. The point of view of history changes the story, as well.

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  5. In Toni Morrison’s Beloved, there were aspects of this section that was confusing to read and understand right away. When Beloved opens up her chapter at the end of the section, she uses only one period in the sentence, “I am Beloved and she is mine” (Morrison 248). This is the way Beloved introduces herself each time she narrates her own chapter. However, for the rest of the chapter, no periods were used which represented a more poetic form of storytelling rather than sticking with the more traditional form of narration. This makes it a little difficult to read because it is hard to determine when the sentence starts and finishes. Beloved uses a poetic phrases such as, “We are not crouching now we are standing but my legs are like my dead man’s eyes” (Morrison 249). The break in the sentence represents what would be the next line in a stanza. This shows how Morrison is incorporating her poetic talents to develop Beloved’s uneducated characteristic in a way to seem smooth without the story being choppy. Another aspect of this reading that was confusing was reading the gruesome details about, “four colored schools burned to the ground;grown men whipped like children;children whipped like adults…” (Morrison 212). This shows that during the time that this book takes place, slavery was prominent and abuse of African-Americans was natural. It was just hard reading about what was happening because it was hard not feeling the pain and being grateful for this opportunity I have for pursing an education and knowing that I have more freedom in this world.

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    • I think it’s interesting that you point out that Beloved has one sentence with a period, which is “I am Beloved and she is mine.” All of her other sentences do not have periods, something that I wrote about, and I think that it’s because it makes her words seem more damaged and childish. The spaces make it choppy to read, therefore adding to the off-putting quality that makes her seem traumatized. As you are saying in your commentary, slavery was prominent and obviously abusive, so this quality of writing gives us the emotional understanding of the situation. Beloved’s words are out of place, disorderly, jumbled, and non-conclusive. This makes it more complicated to read because it should not be easy to read, if that makes sense. I am curious as to why this specific sentence is the only one with a period. Is is because it’s a solid statement and nothing can change it? It is because it is not ambiguous and poetic but factual?

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    • I was also uncertain as to why Morrison chose to use only one period, but I think you make an interesting point about education. The format Morrison writes in in this passage, especially in regards to Beloved, resembles a more accurate depiction of an African-American’s level of education for the time. Sentences are choppy and not fully formed, indicating an unfamiliar-ness with language and traditional grammar rules. There is only a stream of underdeveloped consciousness as Morrison writes Beloved’s thoughts from a first person narrative.

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  6. We are finally offered Beloved’s perspective and thoughts in this section. The first two “experimental chapters” are in Sethe’s perspective, then Denver’s, however the following two chapters are in Beloved’s mind. Though Sethe and Denver’s chapters are hazy, Beloved’s mind-set is much more incomprehensible because her words are so poetic and distorted.
    Sethe and Denver’s chapters are written in complete sentences and aesthetically look like traditional novel writing. Their chapters consist of paragraphs with fully constructed sentences with proper capitalization and grammar. Beloved’s sections, however, are different.
    In Beloved’s first chapter, sentences are not formed in proper paragraphs. Each sentence, which are more like unfinished thoughts consisting of a couple of words, are spaced apart to make it choppy when reading. Some of her words are properly capitalized and some are not. Most of her sentences are short and do not fully make sense. An example of her ambiguous concepts is when Beloved says “the men without skin bring us their morning water to drink,” and then there are some spaces to separate this sentence from, “we have none” (248). Beloved keeps repeating that there are “men without skin” that scare her, which I am assuming are white males because their skin is so pale, but the way she phrases it is extremely poetic and strange. The poetic aspect of leaving incomplete sentences follow each other by large amounts of spacing makes Beloved’s thoughts seem damaged and abnormal. Since this is the first time we are able to look into Beloved’s mind, Morrison doesn’t make it easy to understand her thought pattern. It is childish, graphic, incomplete, and makes readers feel unsettled. The jump from narrative to poetry is obviously noticeable, which is what makes Beloved’s chapters all the more dramatic and fresh because readers are not used to it.
    This style of writing makes Beloved stand out compared to the other characters because she seems more damaged than the others, even though she hasn’t really lived yet. How can a person be so traumatized and unwell if they have not experienced pain in real life? Beloved seems to be pained based upon what she has heard about life, but has not gone through it herself. She is possibly traumatized by experiencing death, but what I don’t understand is that she died when she was a baby and did not have thoughts yet. What is Beloved damaged from?

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    • I agree with your statement that Beloved’s stream of consciousness section is much harder to understand than Sethe or Denver’s and that the “large amounts of spacing makes Beloved’s thoughts seem damaged and abnormal…. her thought pattern…is childish, graphic, incomplete, and makes readers feel unsettled.” I think Beloved’s character is hardest to understand in the novel. Specifically, as the reader, it is difficult to figure out what purpose Beloved plays in the novel and if she is supposed to be a real character or just representative of trauma and Sethe’s past. In this section, and the end of the novel, it seems that Beloved’s purpose as a character is just to symbolize Sethe’s struggle to deal with her trauma. I think your questions “what is Beloved damaged from?” and “how can a person be so traumatized and unwell if they have not experienced pain in real life?” seems to demonstrate that Beloved is there to physically represent the constant reminder of the past, of slavery, and of trauma that so many former slaves now have to live with. At the end of the novel, Sethe is finally able to escape Beloved (and representatively escape her past) by rejoining a community of black women, and allowing herself to rely on/be vulnerable with other black women who have had similar experiences to Sethe. At the end of the novel Beloved is somewhat portrayed as a selfish, horrible figure—sucking the life out of Sethe—seemingly suggesting Sethe’s inability to leave the past in the past is killing her. It is only when Sethe escapes from Beloved that her and Denver experience some form of freedom.

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      • I agree with what you’re saying here. When Sethe first discovers Beloved is the reincarnation of her dead child, she is happy that she won’t have to remember the pass anymore, and will be able to explain to Beloved why she did what she did. But then I think Beloved, and Sethe’s past, begin to overwhelm Sethe by refusing to let her move on. It is only when she gets out of 124 and escapes that toxic environment that she is first written to leave her past. Denver challenges me the most honestly, but I believe in the end she represents a generation born into the end of slavery. She is aware of the trauma, a trauma so close to home, but has not experienced it in the same way. I think this is why she’s able to exit 124 and find comfort in the world around her. Where Sethe is so traumatized by slavery that she is unable to move away from the constant reminders of her past, only leaving 124 at the very end when Beloved disappears.

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  7. Near the end of this section of reading the narrative style of the novel takes a complete 180. Morrison introduces the stream of consciousness and for the first time in the novel we get all the perspectives of the three characters mixing with one another to reveal their inner monologue or thought on the matters happening around them. One line that stood out to me was, “Beloved, she my daughter. She mine. See. She come back to me of her own free will and I don’t have to explain a thing” (Morrison 236). This passage was very confusing to read. If we look at this piece of writing, we see the way these post slaves think about and how they think in their own heads which is much different than how most people think. They seem to think in a much more stream of consciousness way, which to our thinking is much different and thought out. This also changes the way we read the novel as a whole. The novel up until now has been very coercive and structured. Although we have seem glimpses into how the post slaves have spoken with their miss spoken words, this seems to be on a whole other level. The phrase, “She mine.” (236), shows us how different these people’s education and thought is to the rest of the novel, like when Sethe tells her stories. She might mess up a few words, but does not transport and have very short thoughts that are not full thoughts when she is speaking. Also if we look at the language that Sethe says here we get a lot of insight of what she truly thinks of Beloved. She is very possessive of her since her return into Sethe’s life. She is hers once again and this time she has no reason to let her go. Family has been a big idea in the novel so far, and Sethe killed Beloved once, because she loved her and did not want her to be owned and be a cog in the machine of slavery. She owned her and now that she is back, Sethe will never lose her again and claims her as her own until she can no longer care for Beloved.

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    • The mixing of the characters individual ideas and statements is interesting because it doesn’t show any individuality what so ever. It makes it seem as though either they all are getting things off their chest or are acting as if they are taking sides when someone says something. This does make it difficult to read because unless you know each of the characters situations as you read along in the book, its hard to decipher who said what in that thought pattern. This also helps to develop the characters individuality because it introduces the idea of collectivism vs. individuality between the 3 women indirectly. They either are either agreeing with one another or are stating their own idea to one another causing new things to be found out as time goes on.

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  8. The perspective of a novel changes the way in which we read, and in the way we see our characters. Morrison introduces an entirely new element as she introduces the perspective of different characters. By being inside of their minds, we experience the memory and pain for ourselves. We see what the characters see, instead of being told what they see. Sethe and Denver’s perspectives make the novel much more logical. We are able to follow their narrative form a bit more clearly, and it reads much more like a typical story. Once we get to Beloved’s narration, everything changes for the reader. Morrison does not follow any of the typical rules in this section. She doesn’t use periods, and instead uses a extra spaces between phrases. The section reads as one long stream of thought, as opposed to a well formed idea: “there is night and there is day again again again night day night day” (Morrison 251). This new structure adds to Beloved’s mysterious and ghostly presence within the house. It represents the supernatural and haunting aspect of Sethe’s dead baby.

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    • I agree that by going inside the characters’ minds there is a lot of important exposition revealed and the thought process behind Sethe and Denver’s actions are explained in an understandable way. Denver’s feelings towards Paul D are revealed, and her important connection with the ghost baby explains her immediate connection with Beloved. In contrast to Sethe and Denver’s inner narratives, Beloved’s is more confusing than helpful because her inner monologue is so fragmented and damaged by the trauma she has endured.

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  9. Section II of the novel is a transition into different timeframes of the novel. Stamp Paid’s interaction with Baby Suggs gives us a different perspective on the events with Sethe and her children. We learn about the deterioration of Baby Suggs due to the shame and misery from Sethe’s actions. This entire section features a lot of confusing dialogue without explicit direction of who is saying what. With Baby Suggs there is still an important emphasis on colour as an understandable feature rather than just a colour. While Sethe is in jail, Baby Suggs “had exhausted blue and was well on her way to yellow” (208), which could pertain to anything from her skin to her inner emotion and is completely up to interpretation. Earlier in the novel Baby Suggs and Beloved are both fascinated by the orange fabric in a quilt, and Stamp Paid hopes Baby Sugg’s fascination will stick to “blue, yellow, maybe green, and never fixed on red” (213), suggesting a hierarchy of colours pertaining to different things, possibly red meaning anger or the spite that fills 124. Beginning with the stream of consciousness writing on 236 there is a transition in coherence and fragmentation of thought. Sethe’s stream of consciousness about Beloved is an explanation of why she killed her. Sethe describes looking at things and just experiencing the world through her eyes, also partly in the form of colour. She describes Baby Suggs in her death in the same way Stamp Paid did pertaining to her inner/outer/emotional colour, that it “took her a long time to finish with blue, then yellow, then green. She was well into pink when she died. I don’t believe she wanted to get to red and I understand why because me and Beloved outdid ourselves with it” (237), suggesting that the phase of colour a person is in just pertains to what colour they look at the most, red being a phase of seeing blood and gore, which Baby Suggs saw much too much of with Sethe and Beloved.

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  10. In the last passage, Morrison delves into Beloved’s mind, exposing its true level of under development.
    Beloved’s mind offers no apparent sense of format, structure or punctuation; when reading Beloved’s mind, the readers experiences her thoughts in their truest form. Beloved’s mind is like unapologetic poetry, it exposes each break and pause in sequence with her own personal experience. Yet, Beloved has experienced so little. Beloved cannot serve as a narrator in the same manner that Sethe, Denver and Paul D have done.
    Beloved’s life ended before memories could begin to form, therefore the importance of history does not have the same affect. Furthermore, Beloved’s life ended before she could establish any lasting sense of identity, “You are my face; I am you. Why did you leave me who am you,” (Morrison 256). Beloved cannot separate herself from Sethe or even from Denver, so she divides herself by using short present and past time frames. Internally, Beloved begins to speak to herself, “Tell me the truth. Didn’t you come from the other side? Yes. I was on the other side,” (Morrison 254), previously she had already begun to physically dismantle herself, and she now begins to pick apart her fragile mind. She floods herself with the concept time but cannot come to understand its true nature. Nor can she understand time the way Sethe, her motherly idol, does. To Sethe, there is no divide of time – she lives the past again and again in progression with the present. Though Sethe can admit what she did, neither she nor Beloved are able to live with Sethe’s choice any longer, but Sethe does not feel the need. Beloved is back, but like Beloved’s mind reveals there is not yet a clear reason for her return.

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  11. To read the section we focused on this week, we needed to read less as if we were reading prose, and more as if it was poetry. As we’ve clearly seen, Morrison writes in a very poetic style, yet this “experimental section” of the novel, we see this style of writing take an even greater step in emphasizing its relations to trauma and memory. While we’ve seen Morrison play with perspective before, here we are given a stream of consciousness of Sethe, Denver, and Beloved, each in their distinct style. Sether thought process rambles between fragments, poor grammar, and sporadic tangents. For the most part, there are no paragraphs, but rather one long continuous thought, a reflection of her state of education, but also how trauma has blurred the lines of concise thought. Denver’s section is perhaps the easiest to read, with proper punctuation, and a less disruptive style. Beloved’s section doesn’t even begin to have anything resembling sentences (with the exception of it’s introduction), but rather series’ of phrases interrupted by spacing. This is a reflection of the fact Beloved, is indeed the spirit of baby, never receiving any sense of education, nor fully understanding the world around her. This is another explanation of why Beloved, as a baby, highly prioritizes her relation with her mother, Sethe, over Denver.

    While all three characters having such distinct thought processes, they all share a distinct bond. Each section begins with “Beloved…” and each character’s relation to her, and ends with a claim that “she is mine”. The section ends with a poetic prose of interchanging thoughts that doesn’t exactly make clear who is thinking, if all three characters are thinking, or exactly what kind of exchange of dialogue is being made. Despite being so different, Morrison emphasizes these character’s as one in the same, all being victims of serious trauma, and recovery. The idea of Beloved’s character connects Sethe, Denver, and Beloved on a deeply hazy and emotional level that is conceptually, and emotionally confusing, such as the nature of trauma. Morrison states, “I loved you/You hurt me/You came back to me/You left me/I waited for you/You are mine”(217). Any of these statements, could be said by one of these characters to another one of those character’s and apply. While it may not be necessarily hard to understand, these women, while being mother, daughter, and sister, connect in a deeply emotional, but also complex and contradicting way, that makes this entire passage “hard to get”.

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  12. All throughout my reading of “Beloved” by Toni Morrison I struggled with the narrative style and the manner in which the narrator tells the story. Not only did I have a hard time piecing all of the story together, but it was hard for me to get really invested in reading it because understanding the progression of the story was so hard. Furthermore, the difficult nature of the book also makes it a hard read- knowing the deeply rotated connotations of slavery and suffering definitely make the book an investment. With that being said, I truly believe that these feelings that I get while reading the book are coherent with the feeling that Morrison wished readers would feel once they picked up the novel. A novel that deals with issues of race, slavery and the sense of home and belonging cannot be a novel that is easy for a reader to understand or keep reading. It needs to elicit some sort of behavior that is thought provoking and discomforting, so that it does justice to the suffering that the people who we are reading about went through. In the section of the book that we had to read for today, the narrative focus glossed over the three different perspectives of Beloved, Sethe and Denver. As each narration focuses on the different person, the way in which the narrator speaks, changes. This is what is very experimental in Morrison’s writing, but at the same time so powerful. It adds many layers to the characterization of the respective characters and makes it easier for the reader to understand their experience and also experience the discomfort that I mentioned was provoked on me earlier. Overall, I think that the narrative style adopted in this novel is very essential to its overall literary message. If the story was just told in a chronological, linear way, the reader would not experience everything that Morrison wants to layout through this narrative.

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    • I absolutely agree. Reading Beloved, it’s hard to tell what exactly is the present time period, with memories of different events seeping into modern day as if it was more than a retelling of a story, but rather something lurking and haunting. It’s certainly not only difficult, but often unsettling. It wasn’t until halfway through this book that I began to expect the narrative structure to shift so sporadically, and even then it was still hard to understand. The ending of Beloved seems to add to the thematic qualities of the novel, as it calls into question whether Beloved had actually been around in the first place, or whether or not she was just something of a bad memory, as all the other memories had seeped into the story. Overall, Beloved was an impactful read, and one that I think would be beneficial to read again, in order to clearly understand its poetic nature, however, I don’t know if I would ever want to.

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  13. Throughout this section of Beloved, Sethe’s motherly affection was greatly explored. Sethe’s decision to kill her baby constantly hunts her daily life, as evidenced by the presence of the baby ghost and the awful reactions other characters bare. Sethe describes Paul D.’s reactions: “To rough for him to listen to. Too thick, he said. My love was too thick. What he knew about it? Who in the world is he willing to die for?” (239). Paul judges Sethe as an animal, he doesn’t seem to understand what love means and how potent her love is for her children. Sethe murdered Beloved in an effort to protect her from the world, Sethe said, “ How if I hadn’t killed her she would have died and that is something I could not bear to happen to her” (236). Throughout this novel, it was apparent that raising a child as a salve was a difficult task. The nature of slavery has forced mothers to suppress affectionate feeling toward their children because they lack certainty whether their child will grow up safely. Thus, mothers are paranoid about the uncertainty and make questionable decisions. Moreover, Sethe sells her sexual service in exchange for the tombstone Beloved. Killing of Beloved and Sethe’s service for the tombstone demonstrates Sethe’s scarifies for the sake of her children. While a common person might praise and encourage Sethe’s actions as a former slave living in the 19th century, her method goes against what was expected in a racist society. Her actions demonstrate a sense of rebelliousness against the constraint of racist society, but they are also radical and challenge the ordinary awareness parental behavior.

    Sethe acts as a normal mother would, loving her children and protecting her, but this condemned for not meeting the societal expectations.

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    • I agree with what you are saying about Paul D. never knowing the true sacrifice Sethe had to do so that her kids would not just be a part of the machine of slavery. Sethe did what she did for the protection of her family, and family is something Paul D wants, but Sethe can’t have him around if he and Beloved do not get along. Sethe’s new path in life is to once again keep her family together and safe, which was her only intention the first time around. Now that she has gotten this second chance at life, she will not give up hope and love for her kids. Although it has been warned many times before that a slave should never love their family too much, Sethe is under the ideate hat now that they are free, they can love and care for her kids. This lead to the first time death of Beloved and the split of her family, but she is still under the idea that this is the only way it will work.

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