Toni Morrison's novel Beloved (1987) is presented as a series of 'memory fragments' in which voices and images are continually revisited and revised. What is the effect of this literary presentation on our understanding of the legacy of slavery?
The aim of this essay is to discuss the effectiveness of this novel’s presentation, as a series of memory fragments, on our understanding of the legacy of slavery. In doing so I intend to focus on what I think are the main memory fragments and discuss their contribution to this slave narrative. There are several memory fragments of great significance in this novel, for example, the killing of Sixo, Halle working Sundays to buy Baby Suggs out of Sweet Home, the birth of Denver and also the reincarnation of Beloved. But I have chosen a selection of memories which I felt had the greatest impact on my understanding of slavery.
Beloved is set on 124 Bluestone Road, Cincinnati, Ohio, a house which is described as being 'Spiteful. Full of a baby's venom.' The book opens in the year 1873, after the Civil War when everyone is trying to forget about slavery, the middle passage, the slave plantations and the physical and emotional destruction that accompanies slavery. The Middle Passage was a systematic process of capturing Africans for the purpose of forcing them to work in the Americas. These slaves were transported to slave factories and were held captive against their will. During the period prior to the American Civil War, and the subsequent abolishment of slavery, slaves were sold from one white man to the next and their worth could be expressed in terms of money. This system of slavery was a system of oppression. The legacy of this slave history is a theme that dominates this novel. 'Beloved is the novel that demonstrates most obviously Morrison's concern to bear witness to the forgotten or erased past of African Americans.'
The protagonist of Beloved is Sethe, a former slave on the Kentucky plantation...