Beloved

Beloved, by Toni Morrison, published in 1987, won the Pulitzer prize for fiction in 1988.

Is there ever a good enough reason for a mother to kill her children? This slave mother thought so.

Sethe, terrified when the master she has escaped comes to take her and her children back to Kentucky - and to slavery - decides that death is preferable to life as a slave.

Set in the 1870s, the idea for the story came from the real-life situation of a slave woman named Margaret Garner.

In the book, Sethe's husband, Halle, is allowed by his kinder-than-usual owner, Mr. Garner, to hire himself out to other plantations in order to pay for the freedom of his mother, Baby Suggs.

Baby Suggs is now in Ohio, living in a free house at 124 Bluestone.

After Mr. Garner dies, and with Mrs. Garner close to death herself, she sends for her brother-in-law, called Schoolteacher, to take over the duties of her late husband.

Unfortunately, Schoolteacher is not nearly so kind as was Mr. Garner, and Halle, Sethe, and the few other slaves that are left decide to run.

Things go awry early on, and Halle is not where he is supposed to be on the night set for the escape.

Sethe sends her two boys and small girl ahead with others. Not finding Halle, she soon follows. She gives birth to another girl, Denver, along the way.

After much hardship, Sethe finally gets to 124 Bluestone, and reunites with her children and mother-in-law.

All goes well for awhile, except that Halle seems to have disappeared. Sethe has no idea what might have happened to him on the night of the escape, and they all keep hoping that he will show up, but he doesn't.

Then comes the horrible day Schoolteacher arrives at 124.

The 1850 Fugitive Slave Act gave slave owners the right to reclaim their "property" from free states, if they could find them.

In a panic, Sethe grabs all the children, drags them into a tool shed, determined to kill them all before Schoolteacher can touch them.  She succeeds in slitting the throat of her older daughter before she can be stopped.

Schoolteacher leaves without Sethe or the children, and Sethe spends a short time in jail.

She prostitutes herself in order to pay for an inscription on a headstone for her child. Just the one word, "Beloved".

As time goes on, both boys run away, Baby Suggs dies, and Sethe and Denver are alone. The townspeople stay clear of 124 now, horrified that Sethe murdered her child, and by the spreading rumors that the house is haunted.

A bright spot in Sethe's life is when Paul D, one of the slaves from the Garner plantation who had helped plan the escape, appears at 124 Bluestone.

On "colored day" at a nearby carnival, Paul D takes Sethe and Denver.

When they get back home, they find a young girl waiting. She says her name is Beloved...




Reasons for attempted bans on this book include sexual material, violence, bestiality, language, and other "inappropriate topics".

I sometimes wonder if attempts to have books like this banned is as much about not wanting to face the  brutal truth as it is about the objections given.

Beloved is another book that tells of the horrors of slavery, something that people who've never lived it cannot fully understand.

As shameful as it is, slavery is a part of our history, and should not be ignored.

Beloved was made into a movie in 1988, produced by and starring Oprah Winfrey.


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