[2015] Omolayo Ojurongbe (AP Literature): Beloved

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[2015] Omolayo Ojurongbe (AP Literature): Beloved


This novel presents a closer look at the evilness and consequences from slavery. Sethe, its protagonist, was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe’s new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who she slit her throat in order to protect from the dangers of slavery. The ghost later turns into a woman and begins to disturb the little order remaining in the house. Sethe, fellow slave Paul D, and her daughter Denver are forced to face the disturbing memories from the past. When Beloved goes out of control and begins to rule over Sethe, Denver is forced to escape her comfort zone and gather the support from her neighbors to remove Beloved. After a dramatic scene, Beloved finally disappears. The story ends with Paul D and Sethe reunited to live with each other.


When a victim comes in conflict with the acknowledging the trauma and pain from his or her past, in a situation in which it brings back disturbing memories, the result may be that the evil force may come back to hurt them in the future.When a mother comes in conflict with the risk of hurting or losing her child, in a situation in which it is between life or death, the result may be that the mother will make an impulsive and rash decision.

“Boys hanging from the most beautiful sycamores in the world. It shamed her-remembering the wonderful soughing trees rather than the boys...the sycamores beat out the children every time and she could not forgive her memory for that”(7).

“It was not a story to pass on” 324.

"124 was spiteful" 1.

This quote reveals the importance of trees to Sethe and other slaves. Trees are a source of comfort, peace, and life. When life seemed evil and discouraging, slaves like Sethe looked at trees for comfort.

In this quote points out the importance of never forgetting what happened during slavery, but also not dwelling on evilness and pain to the point it consumes a person's life. It is good to have a balance, therefore history will not repeat itself.People cannot ignore this.

This quote is the first line of Beloved. It points out how there is no peace within the house and the ghost is showing malice and unrest to the family.


By: Toni Morrison

CharactersSethe-Sethe is a former slave from Sweet Home plantation. She struggles with dealing with her resentments and trauma from slavery by trying to avoid her past. She has four children named Howard, Buglar, Beloved, and Denver. Both of her sons left at the age of thirteen and she killed her daughter Beloved to protect her. Denver is Sethe’s only remaining daughter.Beloved-Beloved is Sethe’s oldest daughter. Sethe kills her at the age of two in order to protect her from going back to the traumatizing and brutal environment she endures as a slave. Beloved comes back as a woman an spends time with Sethe and Denver hoping to rekindle her relationship with Sethe. Beloved also can represent the millions of slaves who died during slavery.Denver-Denver is Sethe’s youngest daughter and the only child who lives with Sethe. Denver is dependent on Sethe, she is 18 years old though she rarely leaves the house and relies heavily on her mom’s support. Paul D-Paul D is a former slave from Sweet Home and ex-convict from prison. He arrives at Sethe’s house, where he struggles with his masculinity. Like Sethe, he deals with the trauma and consequences from slavery.Baby Suggs-Baby Suggs is a former slave, she gains her freedom when her son Halle pays for it. She suffers depression and trauma after losing all of her children and after the death of Beloved.

SettingThis novel takes place in 1873 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The story is also set in Sweet Home plantation where Baby Suggs, Sethe, and Paul D are slaves.

Notable Features and POV Beloved is told in third person omniscient and first person. The story contains flashbacks from Sethe and Paul D’s traumatic past, which allows the audience to receive a closer look within the evilness of slavery. First person is used in chapters 20-23 when Denver, Sethe, and Beloved are all discussing their relationship with each other. This novel can be read to remember the terrible acts of slavery in order to prevent these events from ever happening again.

Motifs and SymbolsTrees: Trees show up multiple times in the novel. They symbolize comfort, healing, and peace. Sethe views trees as a source of comfort especially in light of so much evil surrounding her. She states, “Boys hanging from the most beautiful sycamores in the world. It shamed her-remembering the wonderful soughing trees rather than the boys...the sycamores beat out the children every time and she could not forgive her memory for that”(7). Trees are a way Sethe and many other slaves can deal with the complications and trauma that comes with being a slave.Water:Water symbolizes purity,cleanse, and rebirth. Some examples of water being used in the novel is when Sethe soaks Paul D’s feet, Denver is born on the Ohio River, the male slaves in Sweet Home pour water over their heads using gourds, and the when Beloved emerges from the water. Animals:Animals are used to compare the animalistic behavior of the slaves. The male slaves in Sweet Home had sex with calves because they were unable to have sex with woman. When the white people continue to treat African Americans like animals and inhuman, they begin to act like animals.Light and Darkness:Light vs. darkness is used differently in this novel because light is evil and darkness is good. The evil people in this novel are white for example, Schoolteacher and the nephews. It is also more dangerous in the light. When Paul D is escaping prison, it is safer in the dark because the guards could not see him. Not all white people are absolutely bad and not all African Americans absolutely good. Mr. and Mrs. Garner treat the slaves well when they control Sweet Home and also Amy Denver helps deliver Sethe’s baby. So this illustrates that people’s race should not define their character.

Climax and ResolutionBeloved is controlling Sethe to the point Denver gets scared and leaves the house for the first time in years, in order to seek help.A group of neighbors come to the house singing in order to drive out Beloved. Sethe is so compelled by Beloved, that she tries to stab a white man. But she is not able to and Beloved disappears.


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