Author: Toni Morrison

Title: Beloved

Genre: African-American Fiction, Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 1987

Number of Pages: 316

Geographical Setting: Ohio, Kentucky

Time Period: 1870s

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: In Beloved, Toni Morrison writes about the devastating effects of slavery in a lyrical and haunting style. The story begins in 1873 in Cincinnati, Ohio, where Sethe is living with her daughter, Denver, in a house that is haunted by a malevolent spirit, believed to be the ghost of Sethe’s baby daughter, who died 18 years ago. One day, Paul D, who used to be a slave along with Sethe at Sweet Home Plantation in Kentucky, shows up at Sethe’s house. Paul and Sethe begin a relationship and Paul moves in with Sethe and Denver. Paul chases the spirit out, but soon after, a strange woman who goes only by the name of ‘Beloved’ shows up at the house and soon moves in also. Beloved was also the name given to Sethe’s baby daughter who died 18 years ago, and the tragic circumstances of Beloved’s death are eventually revealed. Through a series of flashbacks, which seem to flow effortlessly within the present narrative, Sethe’s experiences as a slave at the most ironically named farm ever, Sweet Home, and her escape to Ohio and freedom, show the lasting psychological effects of slavery and how hard it can be to escape the past.

Subject Headings: Slavery, Post-Civil War United States, African-American, Ghosts

Appeal: Engrossing, Atmospheric, Haunting, Mystical, Introspective, Well-developed characters, Complex, Flashbacks, Tragic, Details of Slavery, Lyrical, Poetic

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Haunting, Complex, Lyrical

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1) Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs. This is one of the first personal narratives written by a former slave and one of the few written by a woman. Jacobs escaped from a plantation in North Carolina after years of brutal treatment from her owners. Jacobs’ narrative is a haunting, true account of the evils of slavery.

2) Slavery and the Making of America  by James Oliver Horton. This historical account of slavery in the United States is richly illustrated and covers a wide range of topics. Readers will gain a better understanding of how slavery began and ended in America and why understanding slavery is so important to understanding United States history.

3) Bound for Canaan: The Epic Story of the Underground Railroad, America’s First Civil Rights Movement by Fergus M. Bordewich. The story of the Underground Railroad, which helped Sethe escape to freedom in Beloved, is explored in this book and myths about the Railroad are turned into fact.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1) Property by Valerie Martin. This atmospheric, haunting novel takes place in antebellum Louisiana and is written from the perspective of a white woman unhappily married to a sugar plantation owner who takes out her resentment on her slave, Sarah, who is also her husband’s mistress.

2) The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. Readers who enjoy Toni Morrison’s lyrical and complex writing will enjoy the similar style of Faulkner. This novel tells the story of the tragic Compson family in the southern United States.

3) Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende. This novel by Allende is written in a lyrical style and is about Zarité, a woman who is born into slavery in the colony of Saint-Domingue. Like Beloved, this novel explores the psychic wounds of slavery.

Name: Elizabeth Allen


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