- What is the reference in the epigraph, "Sixty Million and more"?
This epigraph is in reference here is the total number of slaves who lost their lives by the time we get to what the author refers to as the ‘middle passage.’
- Why do you think the book is titled "Beloved" rather than "Sethe" or "The Ghost" or some such? What features of the book does the title emphasize?
The title emphasizes the concept of trauma literature. The title brings out those traumatic experiences that were experienced by slaves in the hands of traders and masters.
- When does this story open? Why do you think Morrison chose this date for the beginning of the story?
The story opens in a scene in Cincinnati, Ohio where Sethe who was initially a slave stays in her house with a daughter named Denver. The year that this story begins is 1873. I think the author chose this year because it was exactly a decade after President Lincoln ended slavery in the United States in 1863.
4. What do we learn at first about the family's relationship with the outer world? About the death of Baby Suggs? What had been her experience of life?
Baby Suggs had experienced slavery. She had been mistreated in the South. Her experience of life illustrates the perpetual problems that faced African American both during and after the end of slavery.
5. What are some notable features of Toni Morrison's style? What are some of the features of her manner of storytelling?
Morrison capitalizes on the idea of illustrating how slaves in the United States lost their identity as a result of the mechanisms that had been put in place by their masters to make sure that the slaves were not united. In addition, Morrison uses a melancholic mood and tone for his writing. He also explains the importance of community in building unity and solidarity.
6. What is the central event around which the novel turns? Why do you think we only learn about the basic facts gradually, as though unraveling a puzzle?
The central event that the novel turns is the idea that slavery stripped off slaves their identity. The author gradually explains some of the events that led some of the characters not to even know who their biological mothers were. The author gradually gives examples that build to his plot in order to build to on the greater theme that slavery leads to the destruction of identity.
7. What do we learn about the circumstances under which Beloved's grave was carved?
Sethe would not allow her children to go back with her to the dehumanizing experiences of her home. She therefore flees and tries to kill all her three children. Lucky enough only one of the three children dies. Sethe organizes for the grave of the dead child to be carved with the name Beloved. This is an illustration of the difficulties that African Americans endured in the days of slavery and the early post slavery days.
8. What are some of the memories of "Sweet Home" evoked by the appearance of Paul D.? Is the title ironic?
Some of the memories evoked by Paul D include the humiliation of Paul by being forced to hold a metal bit in his mouth. This memory also evokes the memory of the problems and suffering that both Sethe and Paul D had suffered in the hands of the head teacher, who physically abused Sethe and sold Paul D to slavery.
9. What do we learn about Sethe's former husband? The circumstances under which her back has become scared.
Sethe’s former husband was also a slave. He was in the same household as Sethe. The scars on the body of Sethe illustrate the inhuman acts of brutality that were committed on her in the hands of her slave masters. Sethe was abused by the School head teacher and his nephews.
10. How do Sethe and Paul D. feel about their reunion after eighteen years? How does Paul D. respond to Sethe's explanation that a ghost is haunting their house?
Both Paul D and Sethe are happy to re-unite. They hope that they are going to have a great life together. However, on realizing that Sethe had killed her child, Paul D is mad and angry. He leaves Sethe and sleeps at the basement of an old church.
11. How are readers supposed to respond to the claim that Beloved haunts her mother's house? How does this supernatural element affect the book's tone?
It brings out the inhumane way that the young child died. It was not the right thing to do at the time. Maybe there would be another way to save her children other than killing them. The haunting of the mother by the supernatural beings is a testimony that the mother acknowledges that she made the wrong choice of killing her child.
12. Are there grotesque elements of the narrative? If so, what purposes do they serve?
There are numerous grotesque elements in this narrative. For example the idea of men raping calves to satisfy their sexual urges and the idea of Sethe killing her own child. These elements serve to illustrate to the readers the life of desperation and hard choices that the slaves led in the hands of their masters. Due to this desperation slaves were forced to commit actions that they would not have done under different circumstances. This really causes the book to have a very sadist tone.
13. What evicts the ghost? Are there symbolic elements to this scene?
The ghosts are evicted by the arrival of Paul D. The family has been isolated by the rest of the community due to the Sethe’s action to kill her daughter. This isolation and loneliness have exposed this house to ghostly elements. The symbolic elements in this scene is that Paul D bring liveliness to the home because for a long time the place had been filled with sadness and the lack of interaction between the community and the occupants of the home which included Sethe and her grandmother.
14 What psychological processes does this act and Paul D.'s return initiate?
The return of Paul D brings back the idea of love and community. Sethe is able to regain a person who understands her well and hopes that they can settle down and live happily. At the same time, the isolation of the home by the rest of the community had made the home to feel lonely and vulnerable. However, with the return of Paul D there is a renewed sense of community and solidarity.