Finishing any novel is an accomplishment; more so on the writer’s part, but still noteworthy on behalf of the reader. However, when I reached the end of Beloved, along with a sense of accomplishment came a sense of confusion. Suddenly, after Paul D and Sethe find a somewhat hopeful resolution, the novel ends on a rather meta note, echoed by the refrain: “It was not a story to pass on”. Beloved, and in fact, all of the characters’ specificity is lost: the soles references to a specific thing or person are the mentioning of 124 and the last word, “Beloved”. After some equal parts thinking and Google-ing, I believe I can, at least a little, give my thoughts on the end of Beloved.
If anything is clear at the end of the novel, it’s that Beloved is no more, or at least, is no longer Beloved. Beloved becomes “disremembered and unaccounted for,” just a “bad dream” in the lives of those involved (323). In fact, she loses her name, likely indicating that all the love for her has vanished. But what’s interesting is that Beloved never goes away; people deliberately forgot about and never felt inclined to remember her. Although forgotten, Beloved’s presence is still there, even if she’s unacknowledged.
Beloved’s quasi-existence also begs the question of what she is. Throughout the novel, she acts and knows things like Sethe’s past daughter should such as the earrings and the song. However, the characters themselves note that Beloved is not as she seems: she appears fully-clothed and matured, she has seemingly supernatural abilities choking Sethe and moving Paul D, and her story and perspective is riddled with mentions to the Middle Passage of the transatlantic slave trade and bridge that indicates some connection between the living and the un-living. These examples illustrate that Beloved is more than just a daughter, she’s the past, the dead, love, and slavery. So when Beloved stops being remembered, something more is going on than a successful ghost busting.
When Beloved says that “they forgot her,” I believe that “they,” like Beloved, refer to more than the characters in the novel (323). As a symbol of slavery and the past, the forgetting of Beloved represents the collective amnesia surrounding slavery.
Like we learned in class, the stories of slavery haven’t been preserved well. The only documents surrounding the dehumanizing Middle Passage came from the recordings of former captors. So when Morrison writes that, “It was not a story to pass on,” I believe that the “it” of the refers to the history of slavery (323). The statement then demonstrates the failure of our nation to remember the terrifying extent of slavery.
Finally, the line “This is not a story to pass on,” although contradictory, makes sense within the context of slavery. The story of our nation’s forgetfulness of slavery will not continue: we will remember.
I hope my point made some sense, and I hope I could, with my limited understanding of slavery and history, pay respect to Beloved’s legacy. Thanks for reading, and just remember.