Beloved's Last Appearance

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.

Aurora's "Winter Bird" Resembles Sethe's Journey

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.

“Winter Bird” by AURORA

A Ghost's Purpose

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)

Another article had the idea that if people die in a place, they will come back in haunt that place. So what about hospitals? Why aren’t there a ton of ghosts in hospitals? (https://www.history.com/topics/halloween/historical-ghost-stories)

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.

Beloved and Song of Solomon

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.

From the Past to the Present

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.

The Importance of Storytelling

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.

Beloved and The Middle Passage

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.