I will be putting this link at the top of each of my blog posts for Beloved - as I read this book, I could not get this song out of my head: Sinnerman - Nina Simone
Okay, so after that last bit, I’m going to wrap up these blogs with what I really enjoyed not only about this class but about this book – the everything of it all. When reading Beloved, I was reminded time and again of the themes and aspects of so many of the other authors and poets that we read throughout this course. For example, I felt it necessary when Paul D. was singing to read his words aloud to find the rhythm and pacing of his songs, just as I’d done when reading Howl. Well, I kept finding these themes and I thought that I’d spend this last little time we have together discussing some of them.
The first thing that I happened upon when I began the novel was the role that race played and the conflict between African Americans and whites. This reminded me of the conflict between the classification of Modernist and Harlem Renaissance poets. Both movements of poetry were contemporaries of each other and utilized similar themes and features in their poetry, yet the Harlem Renaissance authors have been systematically excluded from classification in any Modernist anthology due to the role that race played in their poetry. I’m not saying that Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance were identical except for race or that every Harlem Renaissance poet belongs in the Modernist movement, but there are some. I came across this debate in my research on Langston Hughes and recently there has been quite a push to include some of his poetry in the Modernist movement, but its being rejected because of his other poetry that doesn’t really fit. Is that right? Can a poet – or anybody – really be summed up into one thing and not be allowed to straddle between two classifications?
Moving beyond this, what about the discussion we had on the conflicting styles of Hemingway and Faulkner? Aren’t there sections in Beloved when Morrison is intentionally vague and unclear and then others that give gruesome and horrific detail (I’m thinking of Schoolteacher finding Sethe at 124 here). Also, isn’t the novel told in a fashion similar to “A Rose for Emily,” with time switching around and events being told out of any sensible order until you can think back and see how it all fits together? I also saw the anger and abuse of Hurston and the inequity of Wright throughout the novel.
One thing that stood out to me significantly throughout the novel was how Sethe kept making me think of Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art.” The idea of dealing with loss and the past then confronting that notion were so prominent in her character that I had to go back and re-read the poem after the end of the first book of Beloved. Also I thought of Roethke’s “Meditation at Oyster River” in Denver’s boxwood hollow and natural serenity that resided within. I thought of Brooks’ De Witt Williams when Sixo was set afire and Halle went mad, what do we have left of these typical men other than typical memories of slavery?
The novel also presents a startlingly surreal narrative through the ghost story, but I’ve covered that elsewhere, so I’m not going to get into it again. In order to achieve all of these similarities, I found myself thinking of the postmodern and current poets and authors that we read and began thinking about what the novel was trying to express about the world in which it was written. All that I could come up with was a line that I came across in the movie: Magnolia (which happens to have the 2nd greatest script of any film, behind Network (you disagree? I’ll go ten rounds with you on this one)):
And the book says, “We may be through with the past…but the past is not through with us!”
When it comes to Sethe’s committing murder and later attempt to commit murder, I thought of Plath and Sexton and the notion that it be best to abandon a life than face the horrors that have or might be. Also the crazy fits in here juuuust right. Also the title of the book reminded me of “Ariel,” Plath’s horse. Morrison’s book isn’t about the character Beloved, its about the world and lives that she is inserted into. Beyond this, the title is open to so many more interpretations than just that character. It could be Sethe’s growth from self-hatred to mere self-loathing, becoming more beloved of herself. Or it could be the manifest that while Sethe is so full of hate, the rest of her triad holds her beloved. Or it could be about a horse, I’m not ruling anything out.