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Beloved Style

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Beloved is the tale of an escaped slave, Sethe, who is trying to achieve true freedom. Unfortunately, though she is no longer in servitude to a master, she is chained to her "hainted" past. Morrison effectively depicts the shattered lives of Sethe, her family, fellow former slaves, and the community through a unique writing style. The narrative does not follow a traditional, linear plot line. The reader discovers the story of Sethe through fragments from the past and present that Morrison reveals and intertwines in a variety of ways. The novel is like a puzzle of many pieces that the reader must put together to form a full picture. Through this style, which serves as a metaphor for the broken lives of her characters, Morrison successfully conveys the horrors of slavery and the power of a community.

One of Morrison's techniques is to relate the story of Beloved from several different points of view. Most of the book is told from third-person omniscient, with the viewpoint character constantly changing. For example, in chapter three the perspective switches even during a flashback. At first, the story is told from Sethe's viewpoint. "Down in the grass, like the snake she believed she was, Sethe opened her mouth, and instead of fangs and a split tongue, out shot the truth" (39). Then the narrative changes to the perspective of Amy Denver, who helps Sethe escape when she is pregnant. "The girl moved her eyes slowly, examining the greenery around her. 'Thought there'd be huckleberries. Look like it. That's why I come up in here. Didn't expect to find no nigger woman'" (39). Every character in the book, dead included, tells part of the story. In chapter sixteen, the point of view switches to four white men, and Morrison shows the vicious bias towards blacks. "You could tell he was crazy right off because he was grunting--making low, cat noises like. About twelve yards beyond that nigger was another one--a woman with a flower in her hat. Crazy too, probably, because she too was standing stock still--but fanning her hands as though pushing cobwebs out of her way" (175).

By telling the narrative from so many points of view, Morrison is able to connect the lives of her characters through shared memories, memories that bind people together in a shadowed present. The memories become even more haunting and real, when Morrison's characters depart from traditional story-telling and reveal their stories through stream of consciousness or verse. In book two, Sethe remembers dramatic episodes from her life in bits and pieces, through thoughts and emotions. Morrison even types the text in a disjointed way with unusual spaces between sentence fragments. Sethe also speaks to Beloved in verse, but within the text the voices of Beloved and Sethe become one. "You are my face; I am you. Why did you leave me who am you?; I will never leave you again; Don't ever leave me again; You will never leave me again; You went in the water; I drank your blood; I brought your milk" (256).

Another literary device Morrison uses is the flashback. She writes in a style similar to the way Quentin Tarantino directs movies, with powerful flashbacks clouding the distinctions of time. Sethe's memories of the murder of Beloved, being raped, having her breast milk taken from her, and her escape to freedom constantly intrude into the present. The reader sees a woman still desperately trying to break free. Paul D, a fellow former slave from Sweet Home, has "rememories" of his struggle with sexuality and manhood on the plantation, and it is a struggle he is still confronting in the present as he tries to have a relationship with Sethe. In chapter two, Sethe and Paul D have flashbacks of their days on the plantation that almost morph into one memory.

"Who could miss a ripple in a cornfield on a quiet cloudless day? He, Sixo and both of the Pauls sat under Brother pouring water from a gourd over their heads, and through eyes streaming with well water, the watched the confusion of tassels in the field below...Paul



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