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Use of Flashbacks in Toni Morrison’s Novel, Beloved

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Use of Flashbacks in Toni Morrison’s Novel, Beloved

Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved swims like a garden pond full of minnows with thoughts and memories of days gone by. Each memory is like a drop of water, and when one person brings up enough drops, a trickle of a stream is formed. The trickles make their way down the shallow slopes and inclines, pushing leaves, twigs, and other barriers out of the way, leaving small bits of themselves behind so their paths can be traced again. There is a point, a vertex, a lair, where many peoples streams unite in a valley, in the heart of a pebble lined brook, and it is here that their trickles of days gone by fuse with each other, and float hand in hand until they ultimately settle to form the backyard pond.

By unveiling her pond drop by drop, memory by memory, Morrison allows us to travel down the paths that converged together to create the story of Beloved. When an author uses a direct path to a story the readers tend to dismiss the unknown past of the characters, focusing instead on their forthcoming depicted futures. In Beloved however, the reader is forced to take trips back to the past, which help tie together the relationships of today. The repetitive nature of the narration also allows the reader to assimilate portions of the text that were inevidently connected to form an entwined net of relationships. For example, each time a new character is introduced, you are brought back into the memory of another character, to identify the new comers’ relationship to the story. In most text, a new character would be simply introduced with their importance to the here and now of a story, instead of the shared history amongst other characters. Most history that is shared between characters in mos...

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... by how beautiful the trees were, and the terrible scar on her back is referred to as a cherry tree, full of life and beauty. It is images like these that characters memories draw for us, images that might not have been alluded to if their memories weren’t tapped.

I think that the most wonderful part of Beloved, however, may be very well be that just when you think a character has told you everything from their past that could possibly lead you up to their future, a new trickle of memories seems to begin to flow, and drop by drop, you begin to connect new parts of their past to their futures. That drop by drop, a dried up spring can return once again to its pebble-lined stream. A stream that comes together to make a pond worth looking into time and time again, because along with each new drop of water comes a new ripple to the surface, and new meaning behind depths.

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