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Beloved by Toni Morrison: Literary Analysis

Updated on December 9, 2013

The excessive use of commas creates an interruption of flow that would originally be present if there wasn't a distinct separation within the author’s description. This clear separation between her brief descriptions of the environment around her illustrates the narrator’s lack of flow and comprehension of her surroundings. The narrator is unfamiliar as her disconnected account of life outside of 124 gives off an uncomfortable and uneasy tone. This is quite ironic as life inside 124 is more unpleasant than the outside; however to both Sethe and Denver, 124 were all they knew, and as a result was what they were most comfortable with. Syntax demonstrates this distinction, as a great deal of commas and disconnected sentences portray a lack of comfortability, while few to no commas illustrate flow and a sense of comfortability. This use of syntax emphasizes the feeling of the narrator in specific environments and the effect that 124 has on their emotions and perspectives towards the outside world.

The language used to communicate the transition into Sethe’s flashback transforms as she describes the portrayal of the present to the memories of the past. The narrator’s account of the present as she stands outside of 124 is very brief and fact oriented as she bluntly points out the details of her surroundings. The narrator describes details such as “the cold house, the privy, the shed,” with a tone of indifference and disconnect that is unlike her account of the past. Memories of the past are described with emotion and familiarity that becomes much more positive and specific. She recounts interpersonal memories such as “her mother making her way up into the hills” that greatly contrasts as the dull account of her present life. The use of language depicts the narrator’s differentiation of emotional perspective towards her past and present.

Schoolteacher, his nephew, a slave catcher, and a sheriff, also known as the four horsemen, come to catch Sethe when they see Baby Suggs and Stamp Paid standing outside of a shed. Stamp Paid is seen standing with an ax in hand while Baby Suggs is standing twelve yards away, standing still from shock. The four horsemen enter the shed and see two boys, Howard and Buglar, bleeding and lying in dirt and sawdust. Sethe holds a child drenched in blood in one hand, while she holds a baby by the heels in another. Stamp Paid and Baby Suggs both stare at the shed, filled with so much shock that they are described as “crazy niggers”. Stamp Paid grunts and makes unusual low noises, while Baby Suggs fans her hands in front of her face, as if in a trance. They both react very emotionally to the murder, as opposed to the four horsemen, whose reaction is very cold and indifferent. Once all four of them had witnessed what had happened to Sethe’s mental state, they realized that there “was nothing else to claim”, and therefore had nothing else to gain from the situation. While Baby Suggs and Stamp Paid suffered an emotional loss, the horsemen suffered a business loss when Sethe lost her mind, and they would therefore lost profit and product.

Consisting of multiple narrative perspectives, Morrison illustrates the merging of these distinct perspectives in Chapter 23 when Sethe, Denver, and Beloved become one. The three women of 124 fusing together to create one unified voice creates a greater emphasis on their separate lives and the tied interactions between them. Morrison complements this particular narrative strategy with the use of combined voice and simple diction. As three voices are meshed together, we see the hopes and desires of three become one and the same. They all wish to be forgiven, loved, and understood in a way that is so similar, that one can not be distinguished from the other. And in this blend of voices the author ensures that no clear distinction can be made, emphasizing the fierce connection that Sethe, Denver, and Beloved have with each other. This connection illustrates the impact that the past has on the present and how that fine line can be blurred. The point of view, constantly shifting, becomes so spontaneous and natural that there is no longer a structure, with nothing to bind the characters to specific set of dialogue. Morrison creates this chaos to demonstrate that point of view is no longer significant, and a speaker is no longer necessary. The bizarre shifts are not meant to confuse but make the reader aware that who the speaker is no longer holds importance, because they are all expressing the same sentiments and desires. Now that there is one voice speaking, the diction changes and becomes very simple and basic. The short questions and quick “Yes” responses depict a deeper, more natural dialogue than anywhere else in the book. Their raw emotions are expressed throughout, and the three women of 124 narrate with a lack of sophistication that leaves space for pure thought and desire. The one voice becomes instinct, as everything that is thought of is expressed and nothing is left out. The diction is crude yet honest to the point that nothing is drawn out. The simplicity of the language provides meaning to the feelings and emotions of the characters, and forms the ideal that they are all sister, daughter, Beloved.


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