I had always thought that Orientalism and the word Oriental itself was simply just racist towards Asian individuals. I do still think that, but it was interesting to hear Said’s point of view on it. He worked to see “past” its racism and instead studied it objectively and historically to try to figure out why Americans have such an “us” and “them” mindset. But God of Small Things showed that some people who live in Asia may have that same mindset, but view being American or being from the west as a positive, while it’s the opposite for Western folks.
Although the video of Said and his book on Orientalism are from quite a while ago, the Eurocentric view of Asian people has remained and nothing has made that more clear than the Corona Virus.
On countless occasions I have overheard people confidently say such uncomfortable and harmful things about Chinese people because the virus originated from there. It seems like everyone is forgetting that the most harmful and murderous diseases came from Europe. But of course as soon as something comes from Asia it is suddenly all of their faults and their way of life is now being constantly criticized. It’s also been crazy to see how the media has used Asian people in pictures when reporting on the virus when it made no sense to.
The only way to truly understand why people are so quick to say such ignorant remarks is to trace it back historically. I think we all take part in reinforcing ingroups and outgroups, and I don’t think they’re always bad. But when it comes to blaming a gigantic group of people who are just as guilty (but more like innocent) as you and I, is when it becomes a large and harmful issue.
I never saw myself smile or laugh while watching a film about a tragic historic event that affected so many lives. With Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful, a film about a Jewish Italian waiter (Guido) who falls in love with a women, eventually they marry and have a son (Giosue) . Then in turn of events the family is separated from each other and taken to concentration camps. The father focused to protect his son from the horrors of reality, he convinces his son that it is only a game and everyone is playing along. the film is set against the tragic backdrop of the Holocaust, but doesn’t focus on the tragedy. Benigni uses comedic elements, antics and humorous interactions, and physical gestures to bring comedy to the dark event.
Benigni use of noticeable physical gestures, humorous interactions, and antics. Benigni starts the first half of the film more lighthearted and romantic between two characters who eventually fall in love. But the audience is soon reminded that this movie is set in a tragedy under Mussolini and Nazi power.
The first comedic strategy Benigni uses is the interactions Guido has with his son Giosue, who doesn’t understand what’s happening around him. Benigni takes advantage of this and uses the knowledge of a child for comedic purposes. For example in the film, upon arriving at the prison camp, Giosue is confused why so many people are lined up, the father Guido explains that everyone is lined up because they can’t wait to get inside. Benigni is using the interactions between a son and father to express comedy in very tense situations in the film/
Another comedic strategy Benigni uses is Guido’s physical gestures throughout the film. Throughout the film Guido performs a goofy walk while being escorted by any Nazi solider. Guido performs this goofy walk because he knows his son is watching him. Guido needs to act funny to show his son that the situation isn’t serious. There are many physical gestures throughout the film that bring light to the situation.
Life is Beautiful is the perfect example of comedy because it focuses on bringing the Holocaust a very dark event in history into the light with comedic strategies.
Get Out, a movie directed by Jordan Peele, is a satirical experience that intends to display the problems with racism in America. The movie’s main character, Chris Washington, is in a couple with a white lady named Rose Armitage. The movie begins on a very nice note, seeing Chris and Rose planning a trip to go meet Rose’s parents, with Chris portraying the first poke at racial problems in America. He asks Rose if her parents know that he is black, and she tells him that they won’t care, Chris is hesitant of this, but still decides to meet her parents. The movie continues and Chris and Rose finally arrive at her house, and her parents seem extremely excited to see him. Everything seems good on the surface, but it doesn’t take long for Chris to start realizing some of the oddities that occur. Some of these oddities include black “helpers”, who share a resemblance to slaves, to which the family sees no problem with. These “helpers” seem to act very odd when Chris interacts with them, and one even tells Chris to “Get Out” when a picture is taken. A very angry brother who seems to be mad at Chris for no reason, and a hypnotic mother who toys with Chris’ mind. As time goes on, Chris gets more and more fearful of the situation, and so does his friend Rod. Rod brings up the common archetype in movies that the black people always die first, and really begins to worry for his friend.
This is where the spoiler has to come in, because there is no way to talk about the movie as a whole without a spoiler of what happens. Of course, Chris is right about his fears about everything being too good to be true. The Armitage’s have an annual get together, full of white people, and they all seem very nice to Chris. There is a repetition of Chris getting informed that his physique is nice, and not just his, but physiques of all different types of black athletes. This of course makes Chris uncomfortable, but the caucasian people at the get together see no problem with it. Chris ends up wanting to leave, but Rose tries to convince him otherwise, as this happens, Chris’s friend realizes that one of the helpers is actually a man who was kidnapped a couple of months ago. At this point, Chris tries to leave himself, but unfortunately doesn’t make it out of the house. It turns out that there was something up the whole time, ) what a surprise) and Rose’s family lures black people to their house to make use of the “nice physique. They do this by surgically removing the brain of the african american, and putting the brain of the white person into the black person’s body. The movie ends with Chris killing the family members, escaping the house, and having a final standoff with Rose. In the final moments, with Chris bloodied and on top of Rose, a police car shows up, and Rose tells Chris that she wins, but Rod walks out of the car and brings Chris to safety.
There are many satirical moments in this book that poke fun at the common problems black people face today. Another form of humor used is hyperbole, which as a whole is displayed when Chris goes to meet his white girlfriend’s family. Normally, there is a fear of being in an interracial relationship, and not having your parents know. This is usually met with disagreement, but nothing of this extent. Another form of satire in this movie is when Rose’s family insists Chris meets all of their neighbors, and they all make the comment that “Black is in fashion again”. Of course they are talking about the clothing, or are they? Another form of satire is on display at the end, when the police car pulls up with Chris on top of Rose. All viewers were immediately filled with sadness as soon as this happened, knowing the situation that will unfold, despite all of Chris’s efforts to make it out alive. Only for Rod to step out of the car and save Chris.
These scenes are all different ways in which Jordan Peele tries to display the different problems with racism in America in this age. I think that some of the underlying themes of this are
There is a want for the assets that black people possess, although this movie displays it in an overexaggerated way, this is still true nonetheless. An example of this in real life is the recent exposure that black culture has been getting, and the term “culture vulture” that has been coined to white people.
Another form of satire is one that I touched upon earlier, which is when the police rolled up at the end. Rose tells Chris that he is screwed, and that the police will believe her, only for it to be Rod. Although it was Rod, if it wasn’t Rose would probably be right, and in this situation, no matter what Chris says, he will be the one in trouble for what happens. This occurs in today’s society, the black person is often the first one suspected when it comes to crime, and the one who will be incarcerated.
The problem with interracial relationships today. This was an exaggeration, but in the beginning you see Chris and how tense he is that her parents still don’t know that he is black.
This clip shows Chris’s friend, it is a funny clip, but it does a good job showing the fear that a black man has when it comes to problems like this.
These are only a few reasons that display why Get Out was not only funny, scary, and interesting, but also extremely moving, and capable of showing the many problems with America today
“Get out,” directed by Jordan Peele, is a thriller and horror film about a young African-American man (Chris) who visits his white girlfriend’s (Rose) family for the first time. The family is extremely welcoming and accommodating, which Chris reads as the family trying to accept their daughters interracial relationship. But as time progresses, Chris begins to notice odd things. For starters, the family has many African American people who work for them, but they seem off and don’t act like normal people. In addition, One of the older members of the family is married to a younger black man, who while Chris is speaking to him begins to scream “Get out.” These events put Chris on edge, in addition to the families repeated beliefs that black people are “athletically and genetically superior” to white people. Spoiler Alert! I feel that the end of the movie must be spoiled in order to understand the satire and meaning behind the movie. Chris’ suspicions are correct, the family has different plans for him than to just have him visit. The mother of the family hypnotizes him into a “sunken space,” where Chris is detached from his own reality, watching it like a movie. We discover that the family has been doing this to the other black people who are in the house, but in this state of hypnosis, they have been putting the conscious of their white relatives into the black people because they believe black people to be genetically superior. The African Americans whose body it actually is are forced to watch what their body does through the sunken reality they are hypnotized into. Certain things, like flashes, can cause them to regain control and consciousness for a while, which is how the one man tells Chris to “get out” when a picture is taken of him. This man knows what will happen to Chris if he stays.
The film specifically uses irony and hyperbole to demonstrate how racism in America, although many white people think is much better, is not actually changed that much from the past. Irony is used with the contrast with what the family is expected to be — a democratic family trying to accept Chris — to what they actually are — basically enslaving black people for their personal gain. This contrast is supposed to shock the audience, but also supposed to represent the racism in our society everyday that we don’t notice. Hyperbole is also used in the movie. Obviously it is not possible to take someone’s consciousness and put in someone else, there is not technology for that. The use of the “sunken consciousness” is not meant to be taken literally, but instead meant to show how white people are still shaping and trying to control the minds of black people. Although this is meant to be extreme, it is also meant to shed light on the blatant racism that still exists in the U.S.
The movie is definitely criticizing modern America. The combination of satire and horror serves to attack racism and white people’s mindset towards black people in America. The writing shows how even those white people thought to be normal often have racist mindsets. Although it is meant to exaggerate the situation in America, it’s purpose is to also show how extreme and dire the situation with racism in America is, and what could theoretically happen in the future. I think Peele wants to change society with this movie by truly showing the racism occuring in America.
‘JoJo Rabbit’ is a historical and satirical comedy about a German city during World War II. The movie came out at the end of 2019 and was directed by Taika Waititi, who is half Jewish. The movie is about a 10 year old kid names Johannes who idolizes Hitler and the Nazi way of life. He dreams of being a Nazi soldier and trains in a Hitler Youth summer camp. Throughout the movie, he imagines he is talking to Hitler (played by Waititi) who could also be seen as his ‘imaginary friend’. Through JoJo, Hitler plays his companion, adviser, and friend. SPOILER ALERT- One day, JoJo finds a Jewish girl in his attic that his mom has been hiding for some time. JoJo is conflicted between his preconceived hate for Jewish people and his naturally kind heart and must make a decision to either follow Hitler’s orders or his own instincts.
Waititi employs satirical comedy all throughout the movie using overstatements and irony. The most prominent use is overstatement. He exaggerates the perception of Hitler greatly by showing him as an idolized celebrity to young German kids. For example, to start the movie, footage of Nazi rallies and Germans going crazy for Hitler is shown with the song ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ playing over it. This compares Hitler to the Beatles showing how each of their fanbases treated them both similarly. Later in the movie, during a scene in which people are greeting others, “Heil Hitler” is said 31 times in one minute to emphasize the ridiculousness of the Nazi way of life. To employ irony, Waititi plays Hitler and portrays him as a sidekick who is weak and powerless, opposite of how he is viewed by the other characters in the film. When Waititi was asked about why he chose to play the role of Adolf Hitler, he said “What better fuck you to the guy?” The movie does more than just make fun of Hitler, Nazi’s, and Hitler worshipers. It shows viewers how ridiculous people in Germany were for supporting and idolizing such a terrible person and adopting the terrible beliefs he preached. Satirical work that criticizes the Nazi’s like ‘JoJo Rabbit’ will continue to be made and hopefully prevent another person like Hitler from coming into power again.
John Denver’s famous hit country song “Take Me Home, Country Roads” was released on April 12th, 1971. Considered as John Denver’s signature song, it was co-written by himself and his good friend Bill Danoff and surprisingly isn’t truly about West Virginia.
To show the poetic meaning of the song, one must look into the context of the writing of the song, as is similarly seen in poems. Bill wrote the song about his home state Maryland, reminiscing about its curving, winding roads. In a state of nostalgia mixed with home sickness, Danoff wrote the piece and presented it to his friend and artist, John Denver. Adding his own twists and turns, Denver created his now most prominent piece, “Take Me Home, Country Roads”.
Almost Heaven, West Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, growing likea breeze
Denver singing to a simple beat, starts his piece with a quatrain. Right away, Denver compares West Virginia to heaven. Denver is using imagery to paint a picture to his listeners. He describes oddly describes life as old followed by describing a breeze as “growing”. I find this odd use of language combined with his detailed features of West Virginia as poetic to his listeners. His singing gives the feeling of nostalgia, a bright look on the past of a country he loved.
Denver’s lines in his hit song also reach multiple dimensions such as the imaginative, sensual, and emotional. This can be seen in the following lyrics.
Misty taste of moonshine
West Virginia, mountain mama
The line “Misty taste of moonshine” gives the listener a sensual feeling. Taste is not normally described as misty, thus the listener imagines the moonshine as misty. The following line “West Virginia, mountain mama” also oddly describes the state as the mother of mountains. Upon hearing this line the listener imagines the mountainous state and can feel the nostalgia that Denver is singing about. This nostalgia is emotional for the listener themselves as they start to recall their own hometown or other matters they are nostalgic about.
Overall, John Denver and Bill Danoff created a poem of nostalgia, that shakes the bones of the listener, painting a picture within their head, and emotionally calling upon their own nostalgic experiences and past.
I first listened to Teddy Hyde’s song “Vanilla Curls” by accident, when it showed up in my Spotify recommended, but the seemingly simple happy song had more depth than I thought, and is a clear example of a musical poem. Telling of it’s inner poetry, the songs first line states the literary device used throughout:
I could drown myself in metaphor
I could crown your head and catch the floor
Lookin’ up at a yellow girl
She won’t cut me free of her Vanilla Curls
Hyde uses these opening lines as just a glimpse into the atmosphere he creates with the rest of the song. He does indeed use a plethora of metaphor throughout the lyrics, describing an almost dying relationship that has left him set in confusion, but also uses clever literary devices such as personification:
Equipped with private eyes, her stare declared me missing
Tried to talk myself out of it, but I never listen
Hyde’s use of literary devices isn’t the only thing that makes this song very poetic, but I would argue his use of diction and imagery does as well. He juxtaposes the melancholy feelings and doubt he has regarding his relationship with playful and silly imagery. Such as describing his significant other as food.
In a minute she already put my feelings in their place
I hate vegetables, but I’d put that stringbean on my plate.
His use of “stringbean” in this line has a deeper meaning as well, as in other songs of his stringbean is used as a term of endearment, like “honey” or “baby”. His seemingly silly wording and phrases creates a sense of childishness, which is interesting as the lyrics have a more to them. For example, near the end of the song he says:
She caught me by the ear and left me lying here in writhing fear
If I get any deeper, I might need diving gear
Hyde has a wonderful way of playing with wording and internal rhyme, while also telling a story of conflict and hurt. But, without looking closer at the lines, you would never guess the precision and thought put into the structure of the sentences, something shrouded by the light airy melody that shapes the song as a whole. Hyde does a seamless job of making the complexity of the lyrics and poetry seem easy and natural, culminating in a lovely tune with a hidden emotional meaning.
In reading “Beloved,” a question arose in my mind. Is “Beloved” a ghost story? Clearly, there is a ghost or spirit of some sort in the form of Beloved. While Beloved is a spirit, what was Morrison’s motive to include a ghost in a story about post-slavery America? While one of Beloved’s main purposes is to haunt Sethe, what more does she represent?
There are a lot of questions there. But in my opinion, “Beloved” is not a ghost story. Personally, I think to call it so is simplifying Beloved as a character. To call “Beloved” a ghost story is to overlook many important events in the novel. As readers, we see many different time periods and events throughout African-American history throughout the book. We see a newly post-slavery United States through the “present” eyes of Sethe and Paul D. We also get to see flashbacks of Sethe’s and Paul D’s back to Sweet Home and slavery. We even get flashbacks to Sethe’s childhood and her mother, who spoke a different language, where Sethe would have been around people who could’ve remembered the middle passage. Morrison uses Beloved to fill some of the gaps missing in this history. As readers, we get vivid, horrible, brutal images of the middle passage through Beloved’s description. This is a part of the history that would not have been included in the story otherwise, but is very important in understanding the history of slavery in America. Beloved is also the one who asks Sethe so many questions about Sweet Home, providing the reader with more information about Sethe’s experience as a slave. Although Morrison could have found other ways to delve into Sethe’s past, Beloved is a natural and interesting tool that Morrison can use in order for us as readers to learn more about Sweet Home.
In this way, I think Beloved as a character serves a much larger purpose than just to be a ghost in the story and haunt Sethe. For this reason, to call “Beloved” a ghost story is a bit of an insult to the book because it holds so much more than that.
In the novel, Beloved, by Toni Morrison, Sethe and the other main characters in the book are haunted by Beloved. Beloved is the child that Sethe killed to prevent from returning to slavery, who rises from the dead to live with Sethe, Denver, and Paul D.
Although Morrison portrays Beloved as a physical reincarnation, one may interpret that Beloved is just a memory so prevalent to Sethe that she believes Beloved is real. For instance, Beloved appears after Paul D’s return. Paul D is a fragment of Sethe’s past, so when he reenters her life he unearths a lot of her memories of life in slavery.
Ultimately, Beloved metaphorically consumes Sethe as she forces her to remember her life at Sweet Home. The more time Sethe spends with Beloved, the more she loses herself in her memories, which makes me think that Beloved may not actually exist in the physical sense at all. Beloved could be a metaphor for Sethe’s past.
In a broader sense, Beloved could also represent the collective experience of slavery that formerly enslaved people tuck away after becoming free (as in Paul D’s “tobacco tin”). Beloved only leaves once Sethe is so entirely consumed in her past that she literally relives the day she killed Beloved when she sees Mr. Bodwin riding up to her house. These occurrences lead me to believe that Beloved may not exist as a person, but instead as a memory so strong that it manifests itself in a physical form.
Although she disappears after Sethe left her side to attack whom she thought was Schoolteacher, Beloved’s presence is very much felt during the last chapter. Beloved has left town and the townspeople (after finally coming to Sethe’s aid) try to put the memory of Beloved to rest. They keep repeating that Beloved’s story was not one to pass on to future generations. Yet Toni Morrison concludes the novel with the word “Beloved” alone as it’s own paragraph.
This represents the everlasting reminder of the horrible past our country has. Beloved represents the pain and suffering from Sethe’s past coming back to her constantly and she is never able to escape it. Although the townspeople want to escape the past and end the memory of Beloved, she is there in the end and continues to remind people of our brutal past.
In Beloved, Sethe spends a good portion of the novel remembering her hazardous trek to 124 after she had escaped from Sweet Home. She recounts how she had to walk through cold and trying conditions while she was pregnant with Denver. The stunning imagery that Toni Morrison uses to describe this journey parallels the lyrics and overall tone of the song “Winter Bird” by Aurora.
When listening to this song, a few lines caught my attention in particular. The first I noticed was, “like the naked trees.” Aurora then goes on to ask if they will ever wake up again or if they have dreams. I found this line to parallel Beloved‘s motif of trees during Sethe’s journey. The trees themselves serve as a symbol for the overall mechanism of slavery, while the tree Aurora describes symbolizes her own dreams and curiosities.
Another line that struck me as similar to Morrison’s novel was the phrase “lay me by the frozen river, where the boats have passed me by.” This line stood out to me because it reminded me of when Sethe was giving birth to Denver in a boat. She has to have her baby in such horrid conditions because most of the white people do not care enough to help her, similar to how Aurora feels that the boats do not see her as important enough to stop for.
When Aurora sings the main line of the chorus “all I need is to remember, how it was to feel alive,” I couldn’t help but think of Sethe’s journey from Sweet home to 124. Specifically, this reminded me of the scene that Sethe recalls when Amy was massaging Sethe’s feet. Amy states that “anything dead coming back to life hurts.” Similar to Aurora, Sethe’s feet probably don’t remember the feeling of being alive.
Finally, the last line that stood out to me was “only wake each morning to remember that your’e gone.” I found this line to be especially powerful because it resembles Sethe’s emotional journey after she leaves Halle. She constantly wakes up every morning hoping that he will come back to her, but after a while, she knows that he is gone forever. She also looses her children later in her story and knows they will not come back to her.
Along with the lyrics themselves, the sad and heavy tone that Aurora sings this song with contributes to its similarities with the book Beloved. The book is not a happy one, so the tone of the book also has a heaviness to it. All in all, the tone and the words of this song paint a similar picture to that of Sethe’s memory.
Throughout the story Beloved by Toni Morrison, a few questions were constantly in the back of my head… Why do ghosts haunt certain people? And, why ins’t there millions of ghosts haunting millions of people? Do only some dead people get to come back as ghosts?
After doing some research and finding some strange websites, I found a lot of ghost stories and a lot of different opinions. One opinion believed by J.K Rowling worshipers is that ghosts are only wizards or witches that choose to come back after death, but “muggles (humans)” can not come back as ghosts. So maybe all ghosts are wizards and witches and kept it a very good secret. (https://www.wizardingworld.com/writing-by-jk-rowling/ghosts)
After asking Google a bunch of ghosts questions, I got a lot of different ghost stories, and found that ghosts aren’t very consistent. Some ghosts appear in certain places or haunt different people, or maybe they are late wizards.
To connect this back to Beloved, Beloved, who haunts 124, seems as if she is just at the house because she likes the company of Sethe and Denver. However, towards the end of the story people start going crazy and Sethe ends up killing Beloved in order to save herself and her daughter.
In conclusion, from reading a couple of ghost stories and Beloved, none of them seemed like Casper the friendly ghost. Ghosts seem to be scary, spooky creatures at the end of the day, even if they seemed nice at first.
Toni Morrison is hands down an amazing author and a person who shaped how stories should be told. Within her many novels, Morrison has wrote stories that highlighted themes of discrimination, family, beauty, and included twists of the supernatural. Within her renown novel Beloved, there is beauty in the way she presents the supernatural and things that cannot be explained. As Beloved progresses, there is a ghost that gives a deeper meaning to slavery and how a person relives trauma. Similar to Beloved, she has another novel that depicts these similar attributes.
From reading Song of Solomon in last years English class and reading Beloved this year I was surprised to find a connection in the peculiar parts of the novels. Obviously there will be connections because Morrison incorporates similar themes and is the author of both books. But besides those factors, if one takes a look into the deeper supernatural aspects of each book, the connections are clear. Within Song of Solomon, there is reference to folktale of slaves flying back to Africa. Within this supernatural aspect, this also connects to the ghost in beloved because both embody issues that arise from slavery.
Overall, Toni Morrison delivers stories that captivate how one perceives slavery and truly gives deeper meaning. Although her stories range in character, the deepest meanings are quite clear.
In Toni Morrison’s Beloved, the past haunts the characters and exerts its influence on the present in many ways. Arguably, memory in Beloved takes center stage.
In Beloved, memory is conveyed as a painful part of the human consciousness. In the novel, Sethe is haunted by her past and cannot seem to move forward. Thus, she teaches her daughter that “nothing ever really dies” (44). Additionally, she believes that “the future was a matter of keeping the past at bay” (51).
For example, Sethe and Paul D are haunted by their memories of slavery. Yet, after years of repressing these memories, Paul D finds the strength to confront his past and make some kind of peace with it, and he wants the same for Sethe.
“Sethe,” he says, “me and you, we got more yesterday than anybody. We need some kind of tomorrow” (322).
Paul D implores Sethe to stop dwelling on the pain of the past, particularly all the ways she has failed those she loved. Paul D acknowledges that the past will always be part of his story but he holds out hope to Sethe that they can build a new future. Paul D made a specific choice to move forward even if that means opening his heart up again, and he wants Sethe to do the same.
I believe that one of the principal messages of Beloved is that the past should not be the impediment to the present. While painful parts of our pasts must be acknowledged before we are able to lay them to rest, it is important not to dwell. The past is something that is hard to forget and regardless of how horrific it may be, it can not be changed. Significantly, what is chosen to be done by the memory of the past certainly shapes our futures and our ability to move forward.
Throughout her novel, Beloved, Toni Morrison portrays the importance of storytelling. It is essential to the novel as it serves as a way to communicate memories among the characters. One of the ways in which memories live on is through storytelling.
As Sethe tells Denver about her family and her remarkable birth, Denver is able to develop a sense of personal history and heritage. Storytelling allows memories to stay alive especially among characters such as Sethe, Baby Suggs, Paul D, and Denver. These personal memories create a shared tradition about the past and provide slaves the ability to tell their own story. This ultimately allows slaves to define themselves rather than constantly being defined by slave-owners.
Although storytelling brings people together, it can also bring back horrific memories. For Sethe and Paul D, their memories as slaves continue to haunt them, which can prevent them from moving on. At the end of the novel, Morrison repeats, “It was not a story to pass on” (324). This suggests that after Beloved’s disappearance, people had to forget about her in order to live on with their lives. Morrison’s story of Beloved conveys that there is value in learning about this painful story of the past because it is important to remember the history of slavery.
In class one day, we discussed that passage in which Beloved talks about where she came from. Beloved doesn’t name a specific location of her origin, but rather gives the reader a detailed description.
Beloved described the place that she came from as “dark” and “hot. Nothing to breathe down there and no room to move in” and that “A lot of people is down there. Some is dead.”
This description sparked much discussion and interpretation among the class. Some commonly agreed upon ideas within the classroom were Hell, a coffin, and a womb.
Then, Mr. Heidkamp gave a suggestion that nobody in the class had brought up, that Beloved was describing her journey through The Middle Passage.
The Middle Passage is the route slaves took from Western Africa to North America, where they would be sold into slavery. The Middle Passage was described by some slaves as the worst form of punishment, and in most slave autobiographies, this middle passage through the Atlantic Ocean isn’t even mentioned.
About 50% of Africans forced onto these slave ships died in The Middle Passage due to little to no food, water or shelter, as well as disease. Many debates in the colonies and later on, the states, involved whether these slave ships should be “tightly” or “loosely” packed with slaves.
The extreme dehumanization and of these people on The Middle Passage speaks to the horrors of slavery, and the disgusting actions the European colonists in North America.
Beloved expressed her dislike, and possibly even fear, of the place that she came from earlier on in the novel. It made me think a lot about this Middle Passage, and the other horrors that people faced due to the abuse of European power and force.
After I left that day in class, I heavily reflected on the emotional and physical impact of this passage, and how if a person was able to survive it, they would still be left with the horrible emotional trauma of the gruesome journey.
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.
*This post includes a spoiler for the musical Next to Normal. And also for Beloved, but my guess is that part won’t be a problem for the majority of this blog’s readers.*
I love musicals. So when Mr. Heidkamp suggested that we blog about an addition to the Beloved soundtrack, a couple of show tunes immediately popped into my head, even though the musicals they are from have pretty different stories from Beloved. I wanted to share them in hopes they make the soundtrack, so here goes:
While, in my personal opinion, the lyrics of this song fall somewhat short of Toni’s Morrison’s signature originality, I feel like it has to be part of the Beloved soundtrack because it is just so on the nose. It is sung by the son of the main character, who died as a baby and now returns to “haunt” the main character in the form of her hallucinating that she sees his teenage self. (I told you it was on the nose!) Like Beloved, Next to Normal explores a mother’s grief at losing a child and how it contributes to mental illness in her life. Gabe, the main character’s son and the character who sings this song, wants to pull his mother back into the past and prevent her from moving on and confronting the reality of her present, much like Beloved does with Sethe.
To me, some really key lyrics of the song are when Gabe sings, “I’m your wish, your dream come true/And I am your darkest nightmare too.” He also asserts that he is both, “what you want me to be” and “your worst fear” and that he will both “hurt” and “heal” his mother. Like Beloved, he represents the past as both a place of comfort that people can be nostalgic for (because it was a time when a lost loved one was alive) and a place of horrors and trauma (in Next to Normal, because of Gabe’s tragic, premature death; in Beloved, not only because of Beloved’s tragic, premature death but also the many other horrors Sethe faced). And although this strange dichotomy exists, it is also true that part of what makes the past so dangerous to dwell on is how good parts of it were– that is the seductive part that keeps people from moving on, recovering, and getting to a better present.
This song deals with a young woman’s resentment toward her mother because her mother shelters her and wants to keep her a “baby” forever rather than allow her to learn about the harsh reality of the world. While I have never actually seen Spring Awakening, and so don’t entirely know the young woman’s mother’s motivation for sheltering her daughter, this song reminds me of how Sethe wants to protect her children from everything. Not only does Sethe attempt to kill all of her children to prevent them from being enslaved, but before the reader even finds out about that, she is shown keeping Denver inside 124 and treating her like she is much younger than she actually is, much to Paul D’s frustration. As Sethe says on page 54, “‘I don’t care what she is. Grown don’t mean nothing to a mother. A child is a child. They get bigger, older, but grown? What’s that supposed to mean? In my heart it don’t mean a thing.’” (54) I find “Mama Who Bore Me” a really beautiful song, and think its general theme, as well as its use of motifs that also show up in Beloved (such as sleep, religion, and fire), would fit the Beloved soundtrack very well.
One other thing that is interesting about this song that also reminds me of Beloved is that the character who sings it at first sings that her mother made her “sad” and then later sings that her mother made her “bad.” I feel like this relates to how the pain and suffering that Beloved experienced (for example, on pages 248-252, when she recounts being on what seems to be a slave ship and being abandoned by the one person she loves and feels like is “herself”) is what causes her to become a toxic person who drags other people down. Beloved is not just a “devil-child” who derives pleasure from doing evil, but rather a character who is so deeply sad and broken that she cannot help but poison everyone around her with the sadness and brokenness that seeps out of her through her behaviors (such as clinging to Sethe and not permitting her to take care of herself in any way). She is “bad” because she is “sad.” I think this holds true whether she is merely a ghost of Sethe’s daughter or a personification of past sadness.