How To Get Through Beloved

Despite Nabakov’s theory that it is better to not try to relate to books because you will get more out of them if you don’t, I still like to relate to the books I read. With Beloved, relating to it is difficult. I have never been enslaved, I don’t live in the 1800’s, and I’ve never been to Cincinnati. However, in Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved, the state of limbo is explored which I relate to. In Catholic theology, limbo is the afterlife of someone who has not been sent to heaven or hell. It is usually for people who are not baptized. However, I think that limbo can have a broader inclination of a state of being between two things. In the novel, Beloved describes a traditional state of limbo as she was killed while she was a baby. She describes it as “dark” and that she is “small in that place” (88). She describes it as being very warm and crowded and “Nothing to breathe down there and no room to move in” (88). In addition to this kind of limbo, the entire book has a broader sense of being in limbo. The seamless transitions from past to present and vice versa almost make it hard to decipher which is which. This makes it feel as though the reader isn’t really in either the past or the present and they are just in a limbo between the two. 

As highschool seniors, we are about to enter a similar limbo between time. The summer after senior year is in between two phases of our lives, high school and college but it’s also the limbo between childhood and growing up. So when you are struggling to finish those last few chapters of Beloved, think of the book’s relationship to limbo and your own relationship to it.