Book Review: Beloved by Toni Morrison
|February 11, 2011||Posted by admin under Book Salon|
This week’s book review is by Jessica Moody of the History Department.
Beloved was haunting me. I saw the text in the corners of academic essays and on the lips and thoughts of colleagues. She penetrated my thoughts and clung to my conscience, whispering in sad, hushed tones tinged with guilt and expectancy, ‘read me…’
So I did.
Toni Morrison suggests that ‘in order to render enslavement a personal experience, language must first get out of the way,’ which is a bit of a downer if you’re trying to understand slavery using discourse analysis. However, Morrison’s meaning becomes clearer as Beloved‘s story develops. Set in mid-nineteenth century Kentucky, with the beginning of the end of slavery in the American south on the horizon, but with its social brutalities of violent racism very much in the foreground, Beloved confronts the ‘rememory’ of traumatic events. The text follows the experience of Sethe, a woman who escapes enslavement but not the ‘ghost’ of the slave experience.
Language is heavy. It weighs oppressively on the shoulders of those trying to foster an empathetic expression of a trauma, which cannot easily be confined by words with ‘too much yesterday’ in them to be faithful to emotion. However, Morrison overcomes these barriers with grace: Beloved crosses worlds separated by time and culture, life and death. This is a beautifully written book that succeeds in bridging these separations, enabling the reader to understand apparently inexplicable actions and circumstances.