Beloved by Toni Morrison (Banned Book Week)

In the troubled years following the Civil War, the spirit of a murdered child haunts the Ohio home of a former slave. This angry, destructive ghost breaks mirrors, leaves its fingerprints in cake icing, and generally makes life difficult for Sethe and her family.  People will not visit the home at  124 Bluestone road for it is clearly haunted – things moving on their own accord, a heavy reddish light of sorrow in the doorway. While Sethe’s daughter Denver would like to move, to escape this every ever enduring life, Sethe herself finds the haunting oddly comforting for the spirit is that of her own dead baby, never named, thought of only as Beloved.

Beloved is also a movie starring Oprah Winfrey

Does the above synopsis sound like a Paranormal read of today?  It is not, instead it is a book released in 1997.

Beloved was my first book by Toni Morrision and I read this for banned book week. 

In the beginning of Beloved, the haunting is merely ghost like, a feeling, a movement…. knowing someone is there.  Soon in the book Paul D is introduced, a former friend of Sethe’s who is initially passing through the area, but upon making his way to Sethe’s door, finds that she was who he was searching for all along.  His presence disturbs the ghost and brings her to full manifestation, in the body of a young woman who immediately falls upon the sympathies of Sethe and Denver as a woman who has nowhere to go and winds up staying with them.

Its hard to write my thoughts on beloved… it was at times powerful, the writing smoothly flowing on each page to the next as I followed Sethe’s loss and pain..  And then at other times it was disturbing.  The entrance of Beloved and how she immediately wrapped herself into the family, only Paul D sensing that there was something about her that did not sit right…

As I closed the book (late at night) I had to sit with my thoughts for a bit, all jumbled and processing… was Beloved’s appearance into the home of Sethe a good thing?  On one hand it led to abuse – both physical betrayal, and sexual.  Her presence, being full accepted as it was creeped me out a bit. Yes on the other hand, Beloved’s arrival also forced Sethe, Denver, and Paul D to make the decsions they did…. to move on and beyond….

Perhaps even more so for me was the fact that Morrison based this book on actual events and the story of an escaped slave named Margaret Garner who had murdered her own child rather than see them all returned to slavery.

Overall Beloved is a disturbing read.  Not always, in a bad way.  This book made me think about the slavery in our history and the lengths people went to escape it.  Toni Morrison shows us here through her work in Beloved, that some ways of escapes…

are not escapes at all.

Why was Beloved banned?

Challenged at the St. Johns County Schools in St. Augustine, FL (1995). Retained on the Round Rock, TX Independent High School reading list (1996) after a challenge that the book was too violent. Challenged by a member of the Madawaska, ME School Committee (1997) because of the book’s language. The 1987 Pulitzer Prize winning novel has been required reading for the advanced placement English class for six years. Challenged in the Sarasota County, FL schools (1998) because of sexual material.  Retained on the Northwest Suburban High School District 214 reading listing in Arlington Heights, IL (2006), along with eight other challenged titles.  A board member, elected amid promises to bring her Christian beliefs into all board decision-making, raised the controversy based on excerpts from the books she’d found on the Internet.  Challenged in the Coeur d’Alene School District, ID (2007).  Some parents say the book, along with five others, should require parental permission for students to read them.  Pulled from the senior Advanced Placement (AP) English class at Eastern High School in Louisville, KY (2007) because two parents complained that the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about antebellum slavery depicted the inappropriate topics of bestiality, racism, and sex.  The principal ordered teachers to start over with The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne in preparation for upcoming AP exams.

The 2011 WHERE Are You Reading Map has been updated to include Beloved

I purchased this book from our Fall Library sale

24 thoughts on “Beloved by Toni Morrison (Banned Book Week)

  1. Wonderful analysis of a great book. Beloved has always been one of my favorites by Toni Morrison. Reading this is a dedicated experience- you become a fully engaged reader: thinking and feeling your way through this story.

  2. I’ve read Beloved many years ago but it still sometimes haunts me. I didn’t know that there was a movie made. Somehow I always thought that maybe they will make a movie soon. Will check it out. Hopefully it is as good as the book (which doesn’t happen often.)

  3. It was the first Morrison novel I read too, it was assigned in one of my college classes. I don’t have strong memories of it, just some haunting parts, like how she paid for her daughters tombstone. I think it haunted me so much I had trouble reading any of her other books.

  4. I didn’t realize this was kind of based on a true story. I think the creepiness factor would be enough to turn me away from it though. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it though!

    1. I did not know going into the read that it was based on a true story.. I am perhaps a little glad I did not know as it is disturbing and something I had not thought about and was so sad to hear this actually happened.

  5. Hola, quizás os interese saber que tenemos una colección que incluye el relato ‘Recitatif’ de Toni Morrison en versión original conjuntamente con el relato ‘To Room Nineteen’ de Doris Lessing.

    El formato de esta colección es innovador porque permite leer directamente la obra en inglés sin necesidad de usar el diccionario al integrarse un glosario en cada página.

    Tenéis más info de este relato y de la colección Read&Listen en

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