Perhaps one of the most important issues in Toni Morrison's award-winning novel Beloved is Morrison's intentional diversity of possible interpretations. However the text is looked at and analyzed, it is the variety of these multiple meanings that confounds any simple interpretation and gives the novel the complexity. The debate rages on over many topics, but one issue of central and basic importance to the understanding of the novel is defining the different possibilities for interpreting the title character. As Robert Broad recognizes, "the question, "Who the hell is Beloved?" must haunt the reader of the novel," and the reader must come to some basic understanding of her character to appreciate the difficult stream of consciousness sections (Broad 189). But there may be no "basic" understanding available of Beloved, for she is a character that ostensibly refuses any single identity, either literal or symbolic.
The critical debate on the topic is no more conclusive, and there is a sharp divide in the interpretations of the very nature of Beloved. Deborah Horvitz was one of the first to write on Beloved, and in 1989 she set the stage for much of the later criticism by assuming the supernatural origins of Beloved. Her essay "Nameless Ghosts: Possession and Dispossession in Beloved" extended Sethe's realization that Beloved is her dead daughter to include also the "Sixty Million and more" of the dedication (Morrison vi). Beloved is all African women who have died in the middle passage, and the families of those taken, and Sethe's mother. She returns for several reasons, some positive, some not. She is memory made corporeal, and it is through her that Sethe can first rememb...
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...n Contemporary Fiction. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. 127-157.
Horvitz, Deborah. "Nameless Ghosts: Possession and Dispossession in Beloved." Toni Morrison: Beloved. Ed. Carl Plasa. Columbia Critical Guides. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998. 59-66.
House, Elizabeth B. "Toni Morrison's Ghost: The Beloved Who is Not Beloved." Toni Morrison: Beloved. Ed. Carl Plasa. Columbia Critical Guides. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998. 66-71.
Mbalia, Doreatha D. Toni Morrison's Developing Class Consciousness. Selinsgrove: Associated University Presses, 1991.
Morrison, Toni. Beloved. New York: Plume, 1988.
OED Online. http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/00241438. Oxford University Press, 2001.
Osagie, Ilyunolu. "Is Morrison Also Among the Prophets?: "Psychoanalytic" Strategies in Beloved." African American Review. 28.3 (1994): 423-440.
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