The Relationship between the Individual and Community, Remembering and Forgetting, in Toni Morrison's Beloved College

Toni Morrison’s Beloved, published in 1987 and a noteworthy text of popular African-American literature, expands and explores a variety of themes, that stretch from the trauma and devastation associated with slavery and its social effect, to the role that memory, selfhood and community play at the individual level. In doing so, the novel surpasses numerous tropes, and becomes a text to which many labels can be attached: it can be called a postmodernist text, a text championing black civil rights, a text that seeks to explore the wounds of slavery and how the memory of it can come to shape generations, as well as a text that is deeply concerned in the nature of identity and its formation.

Largely, the text focuses on the life of ex-slave Sethe following the American Civil War, who runs away to Cincinnati, Ohio, from the Kentucky plantation Sweet Home, where she worked as a slave and where she experienced tortures of rape and assault on the hands of her white owners. After, what is written as “twenty-eight days of freedom,” Sethe’s owner arrives to reclaim her and her four children as his property, under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Sethe decides to kill her children rather than subject to the horrors of slavery, and succeeds...

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