Prior to Beloved’s Arrival


Levy was eventually right in his recommendation that “virtually every significant character in Cherished efforts to tell the story of Sethe’s infanticide of Beloved and her subsequent resurrection in a way that provides power … or at least ensures the continued survival of an embattled black community.” This can be seen most specifically in memories, ideas, and conversations of the characters Sethe, Child Suggs, Denver, Paul D and Beloved. It seems Morrison shows the intrinsic power struggles of self that is connected to continuation of the black community through informing the story multivocally.

Each voice explores the infanticide and resurrection differently and subsequently exposes various element of power of self. Morrison explores this utilizing a series of narrative and literary techniques, consisting of magic realism, moving focalization, free indirect discourse, while continuously moving between the present time and times in the past. Criminal of the multivocally told story of infanticide and therefor an outsider to the black community, Sethe puts her sense and power of self in Beloved’s resurrection.

Prior to Beloved’s arrival, Sethe thought “the future referred keeping the past at bay.” The story of the infanticide was one Sethe “could never ever close in, pin it down for any person who had to ask.” So Morrison focalizes the story of the infanticide with the majority of detail through the schoolteacher. Sethe rather informs stories of her past to Beloved, such as Denver’s birth and her mother’s death, although “every reference of her past life injured her.” In this method, Sethe’s self convictions, her power of self, is slowly worn down and transferred to Beloved.

Her life turned into one based on satisfying Beloved’s every need as she attempted to “talk, describe, explain just how much she had actually suffered, been through, for her kids.” As Travis proposes, “the unique checks out the conflicts of Sethe’s love for her kids.” It is this love that leads her to betray her beliefs of the past. It is not till the black community, motivated by Denver and the sense that “The future was sunset; the past something to leave. And if it didn’t stay that way, well, you may need to stomp it out”, that Sethe was pulled from such an environment.

This act handled by the black community is one that guarantees it’s ongoing survival, consisting of all members of the community to belong. Morrison likewise attains an exploration of power through the voice of Infant Suggs, Baby Suggs, who can be viewed as the moral centre of the book. When holding a powerful sense of self that is entrenched by the black neighborhood, she is lost when abandoned by the community. Morrison, using shifting focalization, provides the reader insight into the position and power Child Suggs as soon as held in the black neighborhood.

A power that made it possible for the two floored home of 124 to be a “pleasant, buzzing home where Infant Suggs, holy, loved, cautioned, fed, chastised and soother” the community. As Sethe keeps in mind Baby Suggs and her Sundays in the Cleaning, the narration shifts from her understanding to a monologue of Infant Suggs. “Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face … You got to like it, you!” Yet the power held by this “unchurched preacher” dissipates soon after the feast at 124, due to the “reckless generosity on display screen at 124. This internal battle of the black community to accept such luxury, such a show of over abundance, leaves them, the neighborhood, mad. An internal black battle that is representative of the broader black battle in an eventually white world of the time. As Hison notes of Beloved, “The neighborhood denies its tendency to focus its anger and humiliation on its weaker members. The community quelches and is unable to determine the violence, white injustice, that is the root of its collapse and entrapment in cycles of violence. The day Child Suggs passed away, she tells Sethe and Denver of the lesson life had taught her, a life of sixty years of slavery and ten years of freedom; “There was no bad luck on the planet but white individuals.” Again enhancing the larger black struggle in a dominantly white world. Another among Morrison’s mutlivocal storytellers, Denver does not know the specific details of Sethe’s infanticide, yet explores concepts of power through the relationships she has with the occupants of 124. She feeds Beloved with stories of Sethe’s past that inherently confers power to Beloved’s resurrection.

As Denver’s sense of self at the beginning of the novel is embodied in those that surround her, she handles the function of Beloveds protector to empower herself. She believed Beloved was indeed that child’s ghost reincarnated, and had actually returned her “prepared to be taken care of.” Multivocalism is evident in the “brief replies or rambling insufficient reveries” Sethe tells Denver, which is then passed onto Beloved. As she does this, Denver discovers herself “seeing it now and feeling it- through Beloved.” Morrison utilizes of complimentary indirect discourse to attain this.

Denver’s monologues are paired with Beloved’s presence, turning them into duets, yet all the while are holding Sethe’s voice. It is Denver’s awareness that “The job she started out with, safeguarding Cherished from Sethe, changed to protecting her mom from Cherished” that eventually empowers her sense of self. This in turn is what reunites 124’s occupants with the black community, ensuring continuous survival. Through the use of mutlivocally told stories and the resurrection of Beloved, Paul D looses his as soon as strong power of self and black community, and in this way empowers Beloved.

Ridding 124 of the baby’s ghost, Paul D’s power of self is seen. He informs Sethe “if I’m here with you, with Denver, you can go anywhere you desire. Jump, if you want to, ’cause I’ll capture you, girl. I’ll capture you ‘fore you fall. Go as far inside as you need to, I’ll hold your ankles.” He makes it possible for Sethe with power of self by providing his own, as he tries to develop a sense of neighborhood within 124. Yet that is soon lost with the arrival of Beloved. Requiring the complete attention of Sethe, Beloved tries of rid 124 of Paul D. “She moved him … and Paul D didn’t understand how to stop it because it appeared like he was moving himself. This, combined Sethe’s infanticide informed by Stamp Paid, gave way to the “roaring in Paul D’s head”, leaving him to having a hard time to find his sense of self. This internal struggle for power is once again obvious of the wider black battle of the time that is ultimately due to white predominance of the time. The ‘reanimated’ Beloved gains power of self through the mutlivocal stories of other characters, and in turn empowers the black neighborhoods survival. She is introduced in the novel as having walked out of the water “a fully dressed female”, with little past or history she keeps in mind.

Rimmon-Kenan suggests, “the problem is not that Beloved does not keep in mind the past, however that she does not remember it as a past.” Morrison uses magic realism to put the character of Beloved, which is taken from Denver and than Sethe’s belief that she is the returned child of Sethe’s infanticide. Beloved’s self is empowered by stories of Sethe’s past, and takes her place amongst it. Sethe and Denver quickly discover the stories end up being “a method to feed her.” There are three internal monologues found within the unique, one from Sethe, Denver and Beloved.

While Sethe and Denver’s monologues open with declaring ownership over Beloved, Beloved herself opens with “I am Precious and she is me.” This once again emphasizes the power Beloved holds, the right of her existence and place in 124 that she feels. To a terrific extent, the absence of black community in and surrounding 124 is what permits Beloved’s power of self to grow. It is up until Denver realizes that “She was not like them. She was wild game” that the black neighborhood is called upon for aid, there by ensuring the ongoing survival of such.

Through Morrison’s use of story and literary techniques, the story of Beloved’s infanticide and resurrection is undoubtedly informed in such a way that provides power as recommended by Andrew Levy. These stories being multivocally informed, each voice tells of the individual battle for power of self, which is capable only with the continuation of the black community.—————————— [1] Morrison, T 2010, Beloved, The Random Home Group Limited, London, p. 51 [2] Morrison, Beloved, p. 192 [3] Morrison, Beloved, pp. 174-178 [4] Morrison, Beloved, p. 9 [5] Morrison, Beloved, p. 283 [6] Morrison, Beloved, p. 284 [7] Travis, M 2010, ‘Beyond Compassion: Narrative Distancing and Ethics in Toni Morrison’s Beloved and J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace’, Journal of Story Theory, vol. 40, no. 2, Summer season, p. 233 [8] Morrison, Beloved, p. 303 [9] Morrison, Beloved, p. 102 [10] Morrison, Beloved, p. 104 [11] Morrison, Beloved, p. 102 [12] Morrison, Beloved, p. 162 [13] Morrison, Beloved, p. 161 [14] Hinson, D 2001, ‘Narrratice and community crisis in “Precious”‘, MELUS, vol. 26, no. 4, Winter season, p. 148 [15]

Morrison, Beloved, p. 122 [16] Morrison, Beloved, p. 243 [17] Morrison, Beloved, p. 69 [18] Morrison, Beloved, p. 91 [19] Morrison, Beloved, p. 92 [20] Morrison, Beloved, p. 286 [21] Morrison, Beloved, p. 55 [22] Morrison, Beloved, p. 134 [23] Morrison, Beloved, p. 193 [24] Morrison, Beloved, p. 60 [25] Rimmon-Kenan, S 1996, A glance beyond doubt?: narrative, representation, subjectivity, Ohio State University Press, Columbus, pp. 112-113? [26] Morrison, Beloved, p. 69 [27] Morrison, Beloved, p. 248 [28] Morrison, Beloved, p. 285