Toni Morrison's Beloved - Appropriate for High School Students


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Beloved - Appropriate for High School Students

 

 

Beloved is a novel which digs deeply into the lives of four, post-Civil War, African American people. The novel has many things which could be deemed unacceptable but it is necessary to read as high school students in order to expand our views on life as we know it. The novel may have some idiosyncratic issues but they are unfortunately things that occur in our modern day world.

 

The story is based upon Sethe, Denver, Beloved, and Paul D all of whom have their own personal problems. It is easy to see how critics can say that Beloved is unacceptable for the high school English level but it all depends on the maturity of the students and the discretion of the teacher. Many people thought it to be very amusing when Morrison wrote about how the arrival of Sethe affected the men at Sweet Home. "They were young and so sick with the absence of women they had taken to calves." (Chapter 1, Pg. 10) This statement is lewd and should not be viewed by an immature audience but the Honors English class has a higher maturity level and although there may have been some comments about the incident, it definitely wasn't overly talked about.

 

Beloved had many obscenities, such as, murder, raw language, sexual harassment, and other unwanted sexual advances but they are what made the novel what it is. The murder that Sethe commits is gruesome but a very huge part of the story. The following quote from the novel is the depiction of the murder scene in which Sethe performs a grotesque murder on her own daughter and injures her two boys in order to keep them from a life in slavery. "Inside, two boys bled in the sawdust and dirt at the feet of a nigger woman holding a blood-soaked child to her chest with one hand and an infant by the heels in the other. She did not look at them; she simply swung the baby toward the wall planks, missed and tried to connect a second time, when out of nowhere- in the ticking time the men spent staring at what there was to stare at- the old nigger boy, still mewing, ran through the door behind them and snatched the baby from the arch of its mother's swing.

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"( Pg. 149)

 

The raw language, also, could have easily been avoided but the quote would not have had the impact that it has. This issue is definitely questionable but important to the story's precept.

 

The crude text does have a very strong impact on the reader. It brings out more meaning which is necessary in the understanding of the tale which is being told. The quotes, "`Breakfast? Want some breakfast, nigger?' `Yes, sir.' `Hungry, nigger?' `Yes, sir.' `Here you go.'" (Pg. 107-108) shows how the disrespectful language toward Paul D. affects him; it doesn't. The reactions toward the crude language are also very important to the telling of the story. If the crude language was left out then we would not be able to tell how Paul D. reacted to such a humongous insult. Imagine the story without the crude language. Does it have the same impact as when the crude language is used? It certainly does not give the same effect.

 

Even the unwanted sexual advances played a huge part in telling the story. They made many connections for the reader. The reason Halle wasn't at 124 with Sethe and Denver was due to his witnessing an advance on Sethe which thoroughly traumatized him. Also, the reason Paul D left 124 was of sexual nature. They may seem inappropriate and tasteless but they are substantial parts of Beloved and they generate sympathy and sorrow in the reader.

 

Everything pretty much depends on the maturity level of students. The various issues which take place in Beloved may seem unacceptable but they are all issues that we deal with in our everyday life, whether we read about it in the paper or see it on the news. Beloved may be said to have immoral things written in it but then our newspapers must be too. The lesson in Beloved is given through murder, rape, and raw language it is necessary and befitting for students to learn through their high school English class.

 

 

 


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