Essay on Beloved: A Story of Black Struggles and Triumph in Pre-Civil War America

Paper Type:  Book review
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1395 Words
Date:  2023-01-16


Throughout human history, countless novelists have authored about the experiences underwent by the Non-Whites in America. Most of the writers have focused on social injustices issues such as slavery, discrimination, and racism. Beloved is a perfect example of a novel that recounts the slavery and racism experiences underwent by the blacks in the pre-civil war period. Authored in 1987 by the celebrated American novelist, Tony Morrison, the novel recounts a true story of a black woman by the name Sethe during her days as a slave in Kentucky. Together with her husband and their children, the protagonist character escaped from the Kentucky plantation and sought refuge in Cincinnati, Ohio. Unfortunately, the owner of the plantation and law officers sooner caught them up. However, before their recapture, Seth killed her daughter to bar her from returning to slavery. In Ohio, the family lived with their mother in law, Bab Suggs, who died eight years later since their arrival. Markedly, before her unprecedented death, Sethe's sons, Buglar and Howard, escaped. It is believed that they run away because of the obnoxious ghosts that frequently hunted their home in the 124 Bluestone Road for several years. Throughout the novel, Seth is depicted as a passionate mother who would do anything to ensure that her children are not enslaved. Indeed, this novel presents one of the most intriguing African-American slavery experiences. This discussion offers an in-depth analysis of this novel.

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Character Analysis


Sethe is the protagonist character in the novel. She is depicted as a fierce, devoted, and independent woman. This is exemplified by the fact that she endured battles and dehumanizing horrors associated with slavery. In one instance, she resolves to kill her own daughter rather than see her suffer in the hands of the captors in the plantation. Indeed, this shows that she understands the horrors of slavery and racism in their most intimate human violations. Having been a victim of slavery where the captors (whites) oppressed them, she is determined that her children will not experience similar treatments. The fact that she appreciates that the injustice social issue of slavery constrained her parents and thus, they could not tend to her portrays her as an understanding and rational woman. However, even although she was acting in good faith, Sethe was aware of the fact that she had no right to take her daughter's life, and this guilt haunts her throughout the novel.


She is Sethe's young daughter who born in the boat, between freedom and slavery. The events of the novel portray as an innocent person. She spends most of her childhood life since the community expelled her mother after she killed her older sister. Moreover, she lives in fear that her mother might kill her too. Again, she is depicted as caring. This is exemplified when she later becomes the caregiver of both her mother and the beloved.


She is the antagonist character. She is murdered by her mother when the slave masters come back to recapture them. Beloved later returns back as a ghost to haunt Sethe and Denver. At one point, she strangles her mother (Sethe). However, she at the same time, tries to appease them. Beloved symbolizes the inescapable, horrible past accounts of slavery that returns to haunt the present.

Analysis of the Themes

One of the most predominant themes is past vs present. Beloved returns as a ghost to haunt Sethe's family. This explains why Sethe constantly struggles to forget about the past. Her memories of executing her daughter keep on disturbing her throughout the novel. This is exemplified in the phrase." However, it will not remain buried, either literally or figuratively. The ghost of her dead daughter haunts her (124)." The ghost, Beloved, keeps on attacking her, and this reminds her of the painful memories of the past, especially the experiences she underwent as an African-American slave. When Beloved appears to her mother, she forces her to remember the diamond ring as well as a song that she used to sing. However, Paul D comes into peace with his past because the returning horrors belong to him too. Through this way, the author of the novel makes sure that the readers do not forget about the cruelty associated with slavery.

The theme of love is yet another one that permeates throughout the novel. Sethe cherishes her daughter to the extent that she kills her rather than see her suffer from slavery. Moreover, she tries to explain to Beloved, Paul D, and Beloved, that even although what she did was not wrong, she did it because of her love towards her daughter. This is illustrated in the statement, "it came from true love ( 251)." This is further affirmed when Paul D observes that her love is "too thin." Excitingly, she replies that "Thin love ain't no love at all (164)." Although the act of killing her daughter is inhuman, it is clear that she did it for the love of her daughter.


Beloved is an exciting novel set after the American Civil War. This was in 1873 after Congress had passed the Fugitive Slave Act. Markedly, during this era, the issue of slavery was deeply entrenched in American society. Sweet Home is the location where the plantation was based. Notably, after they escaped, they relocated to Cincinnati, Ohio. While in Ohio, the family used to live in House 124 that Mr Bodwin gave them as a form of appreciation after fixing his shoes and helping him in doing laundry. Finally, Alfred, Georgia, is the place where Paul D was jailed after attempted to kill the prison owner. In overall, the setting of this novel relates well with the characters, actions, moods, and thoughts.

Rhetorical Analysis

Tony Morrison exceptionally uses distinctive literary styles that help in controlling how readers respond to the events and characters within the novel. Some of the techniques that are used are a flashback, point of view, and the stream of consciousness narration. Firstly, he often employs flashback in the narrative to reveal important information regarding the character's history. For instance, when Beloved returns as a ghost, it informs readers about the suffering associated with slavery. Again, it reminds Seethe about her act of killing her daughter. It reminds her of some of the decision she made when she was young. The other literary device that is used is the point of view. The author effectively alters the narrator in some chapters to control how readers respond to events. For instance, in the first chapters, the narrator seems to be someone who is not involved in the narrative. Markedly, this is effective since it helps readers to understand each character separately in an endeavour to develop opinions about them. Finally, Morrison uses the stream of consciousness in his narration in some parts of the novel. For example, he does not use any form of punctuation in chapter two. Personally, I found this technique being effective since I could follow the narrator's thoughts. This made me have a clear understanding of the things that she was thinking. Overall, Morrison effectively used literary styles to help readers understand the meaning of the various texts within the novel.

Importantly, Morrison espouses three rhetorical appeals in an effort to appeal to readers and make his narration more effective. He commences his narrative by giving a story. Indeed, this is an effective way of capturing readers attention and consequently. This improves her ethos with the readers. Another way he uses ethos to persuade readers is during the speech. This increases his credibility and trustworthy. Secondly, he effectively employs the use of pathos. This is depicted when Sethe kills her daughter. Unarguably, this is one of the most chilling experiences in the novel. Also, the incidence of Beloved returning and uniting with her mother also shows how effective he employed the use of pathos to capture the reader's interest.

All in all, Tony Morrison's novel, Beloved, is one of the best-selling books recounting traumatic experiences underwent by African-American women during the American Civil War. Sethe symbolizes the cruelty that blacks suffered during the period of slavery in America. For many decades, the book has spurred national debate on gender and race and other thorny issues that still pervade American society. Indeed, it is a testimony that all women can stand up and fight for their rights in society.

Works Cited

Morrison, Toni. "Beloved. 1987." New York: Plume 252 (1988).

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Essay on Beloved: A Story of Black Struggles and Triumph in Pre-Civil War America. (2023, Jan 16). Retrieved from

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