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Comment on the methods by which the past is brought out in Toni Morrison's Beloved.

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Introduction

YR 1 HARI Question: - Comment on the methods by which the past is brought out in Toni Morrison's Beloved. Answer: - In the book Beloved, the past plays an important role. By understanding the events of the past can the reader fully appreciate the present. Toni Morrison immediately creates an atmosphere of suspense by a mixture of short sentences and vivid images. We are given in the first six pages a "flash-back". Morrison narrates to the reader events that had happened twenty years earlier; the death of Baby Sugg's, Howard and Buglar running away and the death of Beloved. Morrison jumps to the present by introducing the reader to the character Paul.D whom Sethe (the protagonist of the novel) has not seen for twenty years. His presence resurrects memories that have lain buried in Sethe's mind for twenty years. Morrison then embarks on a journey of telling the story on two temporal planes- the present in Cincinnati and the other- a series of events that took place in Kentucky twenty years earlier. ...read more.

Middle

Morrison craftily picks this incident to narrate because it foreshadows the form that the "returning" baby will take: not a child's form, but a full-grown woman- the age the baby would be had it lived. Through the characters thoughts Morrison uncovers bits of the past. This is seen in Paul.D, "remembering the bedding dress". Morrison achieves two things by jumping into the past. They not only tell the reader about incidents from the past but also help in contributing to the overall story. I feel that the method of unravelling the past through the characters thoughts is the most effective. Though hardest because sometimes there are two characters remembering the same incident and interpreting it differently, I feel Morrison makes it clear through her language and images chosen to depict the particular memory. At parts Morrison "throws" in facts of the past that are not fully understood by the reader at the particular time. This is illustrated in the opening Chapter (pgs 3-19) the reader is told that all Sethe wanted to do was to, "make it clear to her [Beloved]". ...read more.

Conclusion

The past in this incident is excavated through a conversation with Paul.D. The disturbing images in her conversation aid in creating the desired tone. This method of the words of characters unravelling the past is further seen when Beloved asks Sethe, "Where your diamonds?" This question leads Sethe to extricate the past. Morrison's method in digging into the past is very simple to read, as it is normally pure narration by a character. Other methods include the songs Paul.D sang when he was a slave and in prison. Paul.D's red tin tobacco box also serves as a method of recalling the past. The method of bringing out the past through objects is unique. In conclusion, throughout the first 105 pages of the novel (Chapters 1- 9) the reader sees two stories unfold- one of the past and one of the present. Morrison's technique in unveiling the past is vast as she uses a variety of methods. By exploring into the past Morrison allows the reader to see not only the development of particular characters but also aids in understanding the character fully. The instances in the past provide also provide an interesting contrast with the present. ........................................................................................................ ...read more.

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