Beloved is not a happy book. From the start you know it’s about a woman who would do anything to escape slavery, even kill her own child. It’s absolutely horrifying, and yet that’s the premise for this novel. As if that’s not enough, the baby’s ghost comes back and haunts the family for years, making for some really creepy scenes between the living and the dead.
Apart from the horror aspect of the story, Morrison made me think about slavery in a way I never thought of before. We’ve all heard the horror stories of the injustice slavery was. We’ve probably seen or read a book or two about it. And yes, they all portray slave life as it was, a horror, but none of them demonstrated the lasting effects of it the way Morrison did in Beloved. For the first time I really thought about how inescapable it is for those who were lucky enough to flee from it, or how family ties are utterly destroyed in way you wouldn’t imagine, or even how we as country choose to treat it today as part of our history. I thought it was horrifying but incredibly enlightening.
The writing is very beautiful and confusing at the same time. I had to read some passages twice to understand it because, Morrison goes back and forth in the timeline. One paragraph she might be in the present and the next the character is remembering something from 20 years ago. You really can’t skip any pages in this book, otherwise you will get lost. However, the confusion is made up with the writing. It is beautiful and absolutely horrifying at the same time; there were several times where I stopped reading just to admire the writing.
As to whether or not Beloved is a ghost or a random woman calling herself Beloved, I don’t know. I ultimately don’t care either. Beloved is still incredibly relevant today. With all the horrors the world is facing today, Morrison taught me that we cannot go forward without accepting and confronting our past. It’s true for us as individuals, as families, and even as a nation.
“Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all.”