A Review of Beloved by Toni Morrison: A Literary Classic

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Among the long list of banned books in the United States is Beloved, a novel by Toni Morrison. The book explores the world of slavery and everything enslaved people endured back in the day. Set in the Ohio river, the book is amazing for anyone looking for a good read.

 However, the book contains violent acts and extreme sexual acts that will leave you horrified. Yet, it drives a point home on slavery and the slave trade. 

This post will provide an overview of the novel, explore some of its themes, discuss its characters, and critically analyze the book.

Overview of Beloved

Beloved is a novel by Toni Morrison that was published in 1987. It won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It has received tons of attention in the American Literature world. Other notable works from Toni Morrison include Tar baby and Jazz.

The Underground railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses used by enslaved people in the United States to escape to free states and Canada. The railroad consisted of whites and blacks who helped guide fugitives to safety. Toni Morrison's Beloved is set during slavery and tells the story of Sethe, an escaped slave haunted by her past.

As the story unfolds, Sethe, a Black woman living in the pre-Civil War days of Kentucky, is haunted by the memories of the trauma of her life as a slave. She is held captive by her past and refuses to set it free.

Sethe has four children. The fourth child, Denver, is the only one with her.. She has no friends, and she is eighteen. She is isolated from the world. Howard and Buglar left Sethe's house when they reached 13. Their mother thinks it is the ghost that chased them away from home. Sethe has escaped from her enslavers, and a white girl named Amy Denver helps her escape and delivers her child. She nurses her, and Sethe chooses to name her daughter after her.

Paul D arrives at Sethe, and Halle's house brings some change as Paul D chases the ghost away. They are at peace.

One day, Sethe finds a young woman in front of her house. She is lovely, and she decides to take her in. She refuses to listen to Denver and Paul D when they question the motive of Beloved. Sethe nurses Beloved back into health, and she becomes her new obsession. Paul D is suspicious that beloved is a ghost that has taken the form of a woman. Beloved forces Paul to have sex with him. During the act, Paul D has flashbacks and painful memories of his past.

Paul D wants Sethe to have a child with him. However, Sethe is consumed by her love and commitment to Beloved that she cannot move past it. Also, Sethe does not want to have to live for a child. She spends all her time on Beloved.

Sethe treats Beloved well to the point of forsaking her needs. She gives her everything and turns her into an entitled brat. Sethe ignores advice from everyone, including baby Suggs to let Beloved go. She feeds her so much that she grows bigger each day. On the other hand, Sethe becomes sickly and skinny.

Sethe continues to entertain Beloved, idealizing her as her dead daughter. For the first time, Sethe opens up about her other children. She says she wanted to keep her babies safe where no one could reach them. She killed her two-year-old daughter to protect her from suffering.

Sethe buries her daughter, but the engraver can only get the name Beloved on the tombstone before she gets caught by a slave catcher.

As the days pass, Sethe becomes more and more like a child, while Beloved becomes like a pregnant woman. Denver is observant and understands the fear her brothers Buglar and Howard had when they ran away. Eventually, the voice of Beloved and Sethe merge and become one.

In fear, Denver seeks help from the black community despite being isolated. They had been set aside due to baby Suggs' envy after Sethe killed her daughter. The local women come together and exorcize Beloved. Denver also had asked Mr. Bodwin, their landlord, for a job.

Sethe attacks Mr. Bodwin who has come to see Denver about the job, with an icepick. She thinks it is the schoolteacher who has come back to take away her daughter. Beloved leaves after the exorcism.

When Paul D comes back, Sethe is bedridden. She tells Paul D that Beloved is her best thing. Paul reminds her that she is her own best thing. She questions her sentiments. Eventually, everyone forgets Beloved.

The novel's themes are freedom, love, forgiveness and the importance of learning to forgive oneself and the people around them.

Themes explored in Beloved

In Beloved, Toni Morrison explores the destructive legacy of slavery as it follows the story of a Black woman named Sethe, from her pre-Civil War days as a slave in Kentucky to her time as a free woman in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1873.

Sethe's experiences as an enslaved person in the 19th-century South are depicted vividly, and the lingering effects of oppression are evident in her and her family. The novel explores the sense of being held prisoner by one's memories of slavery, and the trauma of slavery is revealed through the story of Sethe's daughter Denver. Also examined is how the Civil Rights Movement influenced black people's lives in America and how African-Americans fought for equal rights and justice.

The book also delves into pain and how people react to pain. Sethe has experienced pain from slavery. Experiences like being beaten, oppressed and sexual abuse are real for many slaves. Paul D cannot face his pain. He cannot tell Sethe he was raped while in the chain gang.

The book also sheds light on mother-daughter relationships. Sethe lives for the daughter she killed. She cannot see herself as an important part of being. She is too attached to Beloved that she does not individuate.

The psychological effects of slavery are the epicenter of the story. Sethe thinks her dead daughter is in the house. She has not been able to accept that Beloved is in her past. Although Sethe is now free, she has not been able to set herself free in mind. She cannot let go of her infant daughter. Ultimately, Sethe is bedridden and sick because her mind continues to carry and harbor the past.

The slave trade in the United States affected the lives of many African Americans. Generations after the book are relevant as many people carry generational trauma. Black people have fought hard for equality. This may explain the numerous accolades and the national book award the masterpiece received.

Other themes include the position and role of a man, family relationships and heroism. Reach us if you would like to explore more themes and nuances from Beloved. 

Characters in the Novel

Sethe is a slave from Sweet Home, a plantation in Kentucky, who eventually has three children with her mate Halle Suggs. She's tough and independent but deeply caring toward those she loves. She raises her children to be strong and independent people who can make their own choices in life. Her eldest daughter, Libby, becomes an activist fighting for civil rights and equality for black people. Although it may seem like Libby is following in Sethe's footsteps, she makes her own decisions and becomes an inspiring young woman.

Paul D is a formerly enslaved person from the same plantation with whom Sethe becomes romantically involved. He's kind-hearted and loving but also determined and strong when protecting his family and friends from harm. When he sees how hard it is for pregnant women on the plantation to work without proper protection or care, he ensures they get the help they need to give birth safely. His actions serve as an example of what it means to be compassionate and caring toward others.

Baby Suggs is Seth's mother-in-law who lives with her and Denver at 124 Bluestone Road.

Critical analysis of Beloved

When Toni Morrison's novel Beloved won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988 and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in the same year, it received widespread critical acclaim. The novel examines the legacy of slavery through the story of a Black woman named Sethe, who was born into slavery in Kentucky and later has an abortion after escaping from her mother's plantation. Despite having freedom in the free world, Sethe grapples with many issues, including the trauma of slavery.

The story features a mysterious woman called 'Beloved' whose name appears engraved on the tombstone of Sethe's daughter. As the story progresses, we learn that Beloved is one of Sethe's captors who had been repeatedly raped as a child. Critics have argued that Beloved represents how many women have been subjugated to patriarchal systems throughout history. They say that Morrison examines our hidden aesthetic criteria and explores themes of freedom and captivity.


Beloved is a remarkable novel that has been the source of inspiration for many other works over the years. It is an eye-opening read that reveals the horrors of slavery and how it ruined lives. The novel pours light on the struggles of African-Americans during that period and how they dealt with their circumstances. It also depicts how people dealt with such situations and coped with them. If you are looking for a novel to get lost in, this one's for you. Read it today and find out why it has captivated readers for centuries.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Beloved a scary book?

Beloved by Toni Morrison is considered a classic and has even received the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. However, it is a very dark and intense novel that features topics such as bestiality, infanticide, sex and violence. As such, the book has been banned in many U.S. schools due to its disturbing content.

The story follows former slave Sethe and the mysterious woman, Beloved, who appears at 124 Bluestone road in Cincinnati, where she lives with her children and mother-in-law. The novel unravels the haunting presence of beloved and how Sethe must confront her past as a slave to protect her family from the dark specter of beloved.

Overall, Beloved is an unsettling read with its supernatural elements, raw emotions and tragic story of slavery. If you enjoy horror stories and want an intense reading experience, pick up this book!

Is Beloved worth reading?

Yes, Beloved is worth reading! This novel, written by the acclaimed Toni Morrison and published in 1987, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction that same year. The story follows Sethe, a freed slave from Kentucky, as she struggles to cope with her traumatic past and the presence of a vengeful baby ghost named Beloved in her home.

Beloved has been banned in many U.S. school districts due to its controversial content involving bestiality, infanticide, sex, and violence. Despite this, the book has also received critical acclaim- it won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and the American Book Award.

The novel is also accessible to readers of all levels because of its relatively low Measure of 870, and paperback versions of the book often come with discounts of up to 35%. So if you're looking for an intense and thought-provoking read that will stay with you long after you've finished it, pick up a copy of Beloved and prepare for an unforgettable experience!

What true story is Beloved based on?

Beloved, by Toni Morrison, is a novel that is based on the true story of a runaway slave from the mid-1800s. The book's protagonist, Sethe, is a former slave who killed her daughter to save her from slave catchers.

Through the book, Toni Morrison examines the destructive legacy of slavery and chronicles Sethe's story of overcoming it. In doing so, the author has sought to represent the many forgotten stories of individuals affected by slavery, which have been turned into American history.

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