The Black Slave
Beloved by Toni Morrison is a tale that takes its inspiration from the real-life of a black slave woman, Margaret Garner, and the events that followed her escape from a Kentucky plantation with her husband and children.
Set after the American Civil War, Beloved revolves around the story of Sethe, who was born to an African mother and sold into slavery at the age of thirteen. While working at Sweet Home for the Garners, Sethe met her husband Halle, a fellow slave, and had 3 children. It was when Sethe was pregnant with her fourth child that the world came crashing down around her and she was forced to run away. She sent her children to her mother-in-law in Ohio and planned to follow them with her husband after a while. Sethe later realizes that things never go according to plan when she loses the people she loves one after another. These events are revealed in flashbacks, as the novel opens in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the year 1873, where Sethe lives alone with her 18-year-old daughter, Denver in a house that is haunted by the angry spirit of Sethe's murdered child. So what happens when Paul D, a slave Sethe worked together with at Sweet Home shows up at her doorstep after 20 years? How will Sethe react when she is forced to confront the shadows of the past that she had purposely tried to leave behind?
“Sweet, crazy conversations full of half sentences, daydreams, and misunderstandings more thrilling than understanding could ever be.”
The author takes time to craft the tale's tone which changes with the characters while maintaining the authenticity of their personalities and balancing their personal opinions with an unbiased anonymous narrator.
We see the attention to detail and hidden symbolism, like the number of Sethe's house 124, subtly highlighting the absence of her murdered third child. It is apparent through various instances in the novel how the author has tried to turn a story of pain and oppression into one of survival and moving on.
“Me and you, we got more yesterday than anybody. We need some kind of tomorrow.”
Beloved presents us a harrowing look into the physical, emotional, and psychological destruction wrought by slavery and the lingering trauma that forever haunts the former slaves, even in freedom. Showing us that we can't run away from our past by putting it in a "rusted tobacco tin" and ignoring it like it never happened; a resolution can only be reached when we embrace our past and let go.