“124 was spiteful. full of baby poison. “
These lines open up Toni Morrison’s wonderful adaptation of “The Beloved” and give the reader a fair warning that the story is about something scary. But what “beloved” represents is a painful one in itself. The novel never allows us to forget that the past is always there.
This is part of the reason why the book is considered not only part of the canon of black literature but American literature as a whole. But that’s also why people try to keep her out of public schools.
When appropriate, the past and the present can coexist. But when we suppress ugly truths, the past haunts us fiercely.
The characters in the book who escaped from the Sweet Home ranch and made it to freedom in Cincinnati, and settled in “124” house, want to forget elements of the past – the horrors of enslavement in particular. But the title character, the embodied victim of her mother’s infanticide, needs to be remembered. The lover yearns more than remembering the truth. It demands a confrontation between the past, the present and the future.
An openness to teaching such moments of confrontation has become the latest flashpoint in Virginia’s heated race. On Monday, Republican candidate Glenn Yongkin issued an ad condemning former Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe’s veto of a bipartisan bill that would have required schools to notify parents when they allocate books with explicit content. Appearing in the ad is Laura Murphy, who in 2013, object to the inclusion of “Beloved’s” as required in her son’s first year advanced placement English class reading. By portraying himself as a “parental rights” candidate, Yongkin also announced his intention to do so Ban critical race theory on election day.
How ironic that the book’s themes reflect what is going on in the election campaign.
McAuliffe called the ad a “racist dog whistle”. But promising to ban or require warnings about books that make lawmakers “turn bright red with embarrassment,” Murphy said, happened when she reached out to lawmakers about the book, more than just a dog whistle. It’s evidence of how petrified this nation is from its past, especially when that past challenges American myths about freedom and justice for all. But we cannot escape from this past. It is in our statues, our architecture, our entertainment and our culture. When appropriate, the past and the present can coexist. But when we suppress ugly facts, the past haunts us fiercely.
The lover’s relentless pursuit of truth insists that we see virtue and vice together. The novel’s account of the love affair between Sixo, enslaved at a Sweet Home Plantation, and the Thirty Mile Woman (enslaved on a nearby plantation), so named because he regularly walked 30 miles to see her, gives us an unparalleled experience with insight into their inner lives, even if They were imagined. There are some stories that only imagination can tell. Their intense love—as the novel describes it—invigorates our understanding of the emotional depth of blacks, even during the absurdity of slavery. It has virtue. Sixo is then burned alive by the white men when he is captured after his last attempt to escape from the Sweet Home. Herein lies the vice. However, he laughs and shouts “Seven-O!” This is the work of great literature. “Book only,” Morrison once said while opposing book censorship.It can translate and turn sadness into meaning. “
It is not easy, nor should it be, easy to read about the psychological effects of slavery or the physical torture that enslaved people were subjected to. We must feel uneasy when we read about Haley, one of the enslaved men at Sweet Home, who never recovered mentally after seeing white boys breast-feed his wife, Sethi. Their attack is twofold. When they’re done, they whip her. Inhumanity should make us uncomfortable enough to start asking questions about America’s past. Later, when Halley saw another enslaved man, Paul D. , sitting still and in horror, he cannot scream or provide any comfort to his friend – for he has a piece of iron in his mouth, while he waits to be taken to a prison labor camp. To dare try to be free. The story is full of moments that force us to reflect on the traumatic experiences of black Americans. But it is much more than that. After Sethi escapes and is determined to kill her children – one beloved – rather than return them to slavery, our moral imaginations become sharpened as we also question her right to take someone else’s life, whether it is true. Out of a sense of duty and protection or as a crazy act of freedom and independence.
If a senior in an English class for Advanced Placement found the content of a book like “Beloved” so “disgusting” that it caused him a nightly panic, as Murphy claimed it had happened to her son, imagine how difficult the experience of living must have been. What Yongkin’s choice to raise the issue at this point in the campaign reveals is his understanding of the appeal of anti-intellectualism among a certain segment of the electorate. The goal of all great literature is to teach and enlighten. Clearly not everyone cares about this kind of lesson or enlightenment, and not when it means shifting our worldview from innocent to complicit. But memories of the brutal past do not die. They are chasing us. And no effort to ban thinking can stop it.
It is not easy, nor should it be, easy to read about the psychological effects of slavery or the physical torture that enslaved people were subjected to.
“The beloved” And many books like it show us how literature will not do that in the history of work. If we allow the shallow teachings of history to hide a life Margaret Garner, the woman whose story inspired Morrison to write the novel, We, too, make it possible to erase the conflicting uncertainty of slave owners about the charges that could be brought against Margaret Garner for the murder of her child. If the act constitutes murder, the young child must be recognized as a human being. Unwilling to acknowledge this fact, the case was portrayed as one of fugitive slaves and property, not murder. In her narration of Margaret Garner’s story, “The Beloved” It forces us to reckon with the gruesome realities of American slavery, racial violence, and conditions so terrible that infanticide can be seen as a reasonable and viable response.
If “beloved” It teaches us absolutely nothing that, in fiction and in reality, exorcisms from the past are complex. The past has lessons to learn, and literature in general gives us a safe place to resolve the contradictions of the past in ways that can inform the future.
Morrison juggles the word with the phrase “This is not a story to convey” at the end of the novel. This is actually not a story to unsubscribe or skip, And The lived experiences of the story should not be passed down to posterity – but if not dealt with in the present, the past (no matter how despicable) will continue to haunt us.