Toni Morrison is an American writer who wrote Beloved in 1987. The story of this novel begins in Cincinnati in 1873. The protagonist of the novel is Sethe. She lives at Cincinnati with her eighteen year old daughter Denver. Baby Suggs her mother in law also lived with her but unfortunately she died eight years ago. Readers are also made aware that her two sons Buglar and Howard left the home because they felt scared in living in the house. The house is haunted and readers find some gothic elements in the novel. This novel also presents racism and it is actually an attack on racial exploitation. Lives of Sethe and her daughter Denver has been explored in this novel. Initially they were slaves working for their master but later they fled away and settled at this place. There is a soft corner for Africans in America inside the heart of Toni Morrison. This is one of the reasons she has written for the plight of poor and downtrodden. Mbalia has written that-
“like a scientist, she uses each work as a laboratory in which to research a hypothesis as to the nature of oppression experienced by African people and to posit a solution to it.”
This novel examines slavery once practiced in America and it also presents the consequences of slavery through the characters like Sethe. Readers are shocked to find that the ghost is Beloved who was killed by Sethe herself. She preferred to kill her child rather than to accept slavery. It is very painful for a mother to kill her own child. The trauma of slavery is more painful that is why Sethe might have killed her own child. In this present novel it seems that every character is suffering from identity crisis. They are in search of their identity. This novel is the fifth novel of Morrison which objectifies and exemplifies the delight and unique black feminine experience. In the words of Toni Morrison this book is a genuine black book which uncovers the veil of racism and racial segregation. For writing this novel Morrison has taken an inspiration from the story of Margaret Garner. She was an African American who was also a slave but she escaped the barriers of slavery in 1856. She was captivated and she murdered her own child to prevent the child to be consumed into slavery. Toni Morrison herself says that-
“I was amazed by this story I came across o a woman called Margaret Garner who had escaped from Kentucky. I think into Cincinnati with four children. And she was a kind of cause caliber among abolitionists in 1855 or 56 because she tried to kill the children when she was caught. She killed one of them, just as in the novel. I found an article ina magazine of the period, and there was this young woman in her 20s, being interviewed… and she was very calm, she was very serene. They kept remarking on the fact that she was not frothing at the mouth, she was not a mad woman; and she kept saying, ‘No, they’re not going to live like that. They will not live the way I have lived.”
This kind of life seems a kind of torture and death is more beautiful. This can be one of the reasons that she killed her own child. It has already been mentioned that the protagonist of the novel, Sethe is a slave in Kentucky’s farm which is called Sweet Home. It is ironical that nothing was sweet in that home. The other slaves were Paul D, Paul A, Paul F, Sixo and Halle. Sethe marries Halle and their life is made hell ones they are exposed to the schoolteacher. It was the name which they gave to the brother in law of Mrs. Garner. When Mr. Garner was alive he used to treat his slaves gently. Every master was not similar to Mr. Garner and after his death all the slaves were controlled by the schoolteacher. Slaves were treated like an animal. They were brutally beaten by their master. As a result they escaped when they found any chance of it. Their life was useless and worthless. Sethe and Paul D are the slaves who managed successfully to escape from the bondage of slavery. Sethe is very clever as she already sent her children to her mother-in-law’s house. She was pregnant with the fourth one when she runs away. In this novel we can find a reconstructed memory achieved on the cost of a deconstructed history. Sethe manages herself to get free from the pangs of slavery but mentally she is still haunted by it. Morrison has tried to address the mental and physical trauma felt by the former slaves as it is deeply engraved in their subconscious mind. Ann Snitow has remarked that-
“Morrison twists and tortures and fractures events until they are little slivers. She moves the lurid material of melodrama into the minds of her people, where it gets sifted and sorted, lived and relived, until it acquires the enlarging outlines of myth and trauma, dream and obsession.”
The present novel Beloved begins when these episodes are over. Twenty years have passed and Sethe is living with her daughter Denver on 124 Bluestone Road. Baby Suggs has died and the house is haunted by the murdered baby whom Sethe calls as beloved. She wishes that her dead daughter might come in front of her whom she can present her excuses that why she murdered her. A girl arrives in reality that Sethe and Denver accept as the beloved. Finally at the climax we find that Sethe is looked with sympathy by the author as well as the readers. There are several techniques like flashback and collage used by Morrison.