“Rusted Tobacco Tin”
Toni Morrison’s Beloved is a thought provoking, albeit uncomfortable, book to read. I can’t really decide whether or not I like this novel. Certainly it is powerful and its story is one which echoes some of humanity’s worst history. The subject matter is interesting, I always appreciate writing that tackles society’s taboo subjects because it serves as a wake-up call to the often apathetic masses. Beloved is like the harsh, raspy whisper of the past chiding the present and the future for its denial or attempts to forget.
Suppressing the past with hopes of fleeing from painful memories is something that many people can identify with, at least to a certain degree. Morrison embodies this escapism from the self in a wonderfully creepy way with the character of Beloved who presumably can be said to represent Sethe’s dead baby of the same name. In Sethe’s case, not only do persistent “rememories” flood her mind at times, usually suddenly and unexpected as a result of her conscious suppression, but they also speak to her directly through Beloved. Even if the reader is not convinced that the woman named Beloved is in fact the reincarnation or embodied spirit of the murdered child, Sethe believes it and it forces her to revisit and relieve her most agonizing memories which ultimately free her and offer redemption in the end.
Morrison has a gift for turning phrases. One of my favourite lines in Beloved simply, or not so simply, describes the weather: “That was the year winter came in a hurry at suppertime and stayed eight months” (34). Paul D’s defense mechanisms are something that many people adopt to keep their hearts from shattering. It is said that Paul D knew “to love just a little bit; everything, just a little bit, so when they broke its back, or shoved it in a croaker sack, well, maybe you’d have a little love left over for the next one” (54).
Regardless of whether I enjoyed (that doesn’t seem like a fitting description for this novel) Beloved, it did leave a lasting impression on me. One of the ending lines particularly haunts my mind: “We need some kind of tomorrow” (322).
Morrison, Toni. Beloved. New York: Knopf, 1987. Print.