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Essay on The Importance of the Past in Toni Morrison's Beloved

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"The future was sunset; the past something to leave behind. And if it didn't stay behind, well, you might have to stomp it out. Slave life; freed life-every day was a test and a trial. Nothing could be counted on in a world where even when you were a solution you were a problem"1

The past is something that, without clinical illness, is impossible to forget. No matter how horrific or emotionally damaging, it cannot be changed. What we chose to do with this memory of the past will shape our future. This lesson is one of the most important themes in Toni Morison's novel, Beloved.

History was not only a significant theme in the novel, but the book was also very historical itself. I had learned and educated myself very thoroughly on the issue of slavery before I read this novel. Reading this novel I felt as if I were experiencing slavery first hand. Morrison creates her characters and chooses her words so poetically it is impossible to not see the beauty of the way she portrays this historical event. "It is a meditation on history." Says history professor Elsa Barkly Brown of Maryland University. Professor Ira Berlin continues,  "The discipline of history is such that it limits the imagination. Morrison has an extraordinary imagination, an extraordinary ability to take us into the world of slavery and freedom. Beloved is an attempt to do something which no historian can do." 2

Morrison also has a very creative and entertaining way of slowly revealing each characters past to the reader. The novel goes back and forth between the present and each of the characters pasts. At times it may get confusing to the reader, but it was not meant to be understood at all times. That left many spaces open for the reader to insert thei...


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...g. 256 Morrison,Toni.  Beloved.  New York: Penquin Books Inc., 1988. 

2 Marcus, Brad.  "Diamond Back."  Panel discusses Toni Morrison's Beloved.  04 Dec. 1998.  Diamond Back Newspaper .  18. Oct. 2001.  <http://www.inform.umd.edu/News/Diamondback/1998-editions/12-Dec/04-Friday/News7.htm>.

3Pg. 95 Morrison,Toni.  Beloved.  New York: Penquin Books Inc., 1988. 

4 Pg. 198 Morrison,Toni.  Beloved.  New York: Penquin Books Inc., 1988.

5 Robinson, Mary and Fulkerson, Kris.  Cliffs Notes Morrison's Beloved.  Fster City: IDG Books Worldwide, Inc., .

6 Pg. 182 Morrison,Toni.  Beloved.  New York: Penquin Books Inc., 1988.

7 Pg. 243 Morrison,Toni.  Beloved.  New York: Penquin Books Inc., 1988.

8 Pg. 262 Morrison,Toni.  Beloved.  New York: Penquin Books Inc., 1988.

9 Pg. 266 Morrison,Toni.  Beloved.  New York: Penquin Books Inc., 1988.

 


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