Beloved by Toni Morrison: An Analysis

Topics: Kill, Protagonist, Antagonist Pages: 5 (729 words) Published: April 22, 2007
Title: Beloved
Author: Toni Morrison
Genre: Historical Fiction


The major conflict in this story occurs when Sethe escapes from slavery.

She kills her daughter "Beloved," because she wants to keep her from being

taken back to the South by her old master. A mysterious figure then keeps

showing up at Seth's home. This mysterious figure is her oldest daughter. She

comes back to haunt her mother and her household because she is angry over

what has happened to her. Another conflict in the story is how Sethe is trying

to be a stable mother for her four children under the system of slavery, which

defines her and her children as property.

The resolution to the problems are when Sethe comes to terms with past.

She defeats her antagonist. At a point in the story, she is relieved that "Beloved"

finally stops haunting her. Her community also reaches out to help her.


The setting of "Beloved" takes place in Cincinnati, Ohio. The book also

flashbacks to Sweet Home plantation in Kentucky and the prison in Alfred,

Georgia. The time happened in 1873 after the Civil war with frequent flashbacks

to the early 1850s. Most of the action takes place in 124 Bluestone Rd., the

address of a gray and white house outside Cincinnati, Ohio.


The protagonist of the story is Sethe. She suffers from the many crimes

that is inflicted upon her as well as the crimes she has put on her own self. She

kills her oldest daugher and wants to kill her other children because she would

rather be with them "on the other side" than allow them to go through the same

things she has went through.

The antagonist of the story is Sethe's antagonist which is the system of

slavery, which causes her pain. She does not really know how to care for her

children, but she is determined to do her her best and to make sure that slavery

doesn't get the best of her children like it did to her. She actually tries to kill all

her four children but only succeeds in killing her oldest daughter.


The main theme of "Beloved" is confronting the past in order to heal the

wounds it has caused. The main characters are all haunted by the traumatism

of racism and slavery. Throughout the novel, the characters work hard to avoid

the past because it it filled with pain and horror for them. Sethe, in particular

shows the tendency to repress the past, but she cannot enjoy the future, until

she faces the past.

Another theme present in "Beloved" is slavery's destruction of identity.

Slavery continues to haunt those characters who are former slaves even in

freedom. A character in the story named Paul D, is so distant from himself

that at one point in the story he cannot tell whethter the screaming he hears

is his own or someone's else. Slaves were told that they were subhuman.

Paul D. is very insecure about wheter or not he could possibly be a real "man,"

and he frequently wonders about his value as a person. Sethe was also treated

as subhuman. She once walken in on a schoolteacher giving his students a

lesson on her "animal characteristics."

Literary Elements

•The key mood of Beloved is tragic, but the novel also includes hope and


•Motifs are "the supernatural" and the "allusions to Christianity."

•Symbols are "the color red", "trees" and "the tin tobacco box."

•Foreshadowing- the narrator makes indirect or complete allusions to

events that are picked up and developed further at later point in the



This novel is very effective. It can show a reader that letting go of the

past has a lot
to do with the future ahead. Sethe may have been probably

looked upon as crazy, but there is always the notion that she did what she did

for her kids. She did not think about her self, for if she did think about herself

she would not have ended up...
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