Sometimes I don’t know what’s happening

From what I know, Beloved is a classic. When I pulled the red-covered book out of my bag, my mom said, “Aw man, that’s a great book.” There has been similar reactions by every single adult in my life. Now, as a relatively smart student, I tend to find the books we read in class to be a breeze.

Jane Eyre—Easy!

The Scarlet Letter—A little bit harder, but not too bad.

But I have to admit that while reading Beloved, every couple of pages I check in with myself and realize I have no idea what the hell is happening. I know Mr. Heidkamp said the flashbacks and confusing bits would start to make more sense as the story went on, but the only way I can get through this book is by reading very slowly in complete silence, waiting for Mr. Heidkamp’s explanations, and doing little check ups with sparknotes—I’m not ashamed. 

My question is, how on earth is this a classic? Yes, I understand that it is an amazingly written story, stuffed to the brim with symbolism. However, I don’t understand how so many people could read it. If I had been trying to read Beloved alone, I would have given up after the first few pages. Maybe everyone is just a much better reader than me. Or maybe only a few people truly understood what was happening in this book and everyone else just stumbled, like me, through the metaphors and symbols, pretending to know.

Don’t get me wrong, It’s an amazing book.

6 thoughts on “Sometimes I don’t know what’s happening

  1. Alex Y

    Thanks for the post Simone! I also thought that Beloved, although an amazing multifaceted novel, was tough to get through at times. I too used a supplementary resource to better understand the novel — for me it was litcharts — and even then I really couldn’t piece together everything that was going on most of the time. Besides the frequent jumps in perspectives, the thing that confused me the most was Beloved; she seemed like a walking Rubik’s cube to me with her knowledge of Sethe, supernatural abilities, and existence itself. However, even though it was confusing, I feel that it is certainly worth reading. While I don’t entirely know what qualifies a “classic”, I do know for sure that I’m glad I was assigned it. Even though, like you mentioned, Beloved is noticeably more difficult than most of the other books we’ve been assigned to read in class, I believe that its

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    1. Alex Y

      difficulty in no way detracts from its brilliance and moreover is a sign of its depth. While trying to figure out what happened in the last chapter, I realized that each page is overfilling with substance. For example, even in the small repetitions of the phrase “It was not a story to pass on”, Morrison demonstrates on a basic how the community didn’t want to remember Beloved. But digging deeper, Morrison also illustrates how the African American community doesn’t want to remember slavery in general because Beloved symbolizes slavery and the middle passage to an extent, so the ending of the novel is really about the repression of slavery in the minds and hearts of the African American community. But Morrison could also be talking about American culture and how we have failed to remember slavery. Anyhow, Beloved’s difficulty, although by all means a hurdle, I believe adds to Beloved’s legacy. Speaking of Beloved’s difficulty, I don’t think that it’s necessarily that difficult, although it definitely is to an text, but rather that in a classroom setting, we never had enough time to properly discuss, read, and reread Beloved in a way that would do it justice. I think that more time would have helped everyone get the text a little more. Thanks again for your post Simone, and I hope you had a great (and productive) Thanksgiving break.

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  2. Karim A.

    This is something I wonder about too, do people read this in their free time without a group to discuss it with? I feel like that would be extremely difficult to do because I know for sure I would have given up after the first 3 chapters. Since there are many other things such as the gruesomeness of the descriptions in the book that drive ordinary readers away, I believe that this book was not intended for the standard American audience. This book is not meant for entertainment but is made to convey a message and make a mark on American history.

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  3. Asta S

    I agree with this so much and I am glad you talked about this in your blog post! I feel the same way about Beloved, and I honestly would never have finished the book if I read it on my own. I also used spark notes to check in on the novel from time to time to make sure I was grasping the full ideas presented in the Beloved (no shame lol). Although the novel is so complex and hard to read at times, it is worth re-reading and spending time to fully understand what is going on.

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  4. Katie V.

    I really really loved this book but it was hard. I think part of the problem is that parts of it are written in a way that kind of mimics how a person might speak or think. My class watched a video and part of it was someone reading the “Pretty white teeth” part of the book aloud. I understoof it so much better after hearing it.

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  5. Paige M

    I agree! I really loved this book but I definitely agree that it was hard to read. Whenever I would read, I found myself having to reread often in order to try to understand what was going on. Although it was hard to read at times, I definitely loved the book and would read it again!

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