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In 1873, during the aftermath of slavery and The American Civil War, a ghost haunts 124 Bluestone Road. Sethe and her youngest daughter Denver live with the ghost of a vengeful dead baby (Sethe's firstborn daughter) until the arrival of Paul D, an old acquaintance from Sethe's past days as a slave. After Paul D chases away the spirit and situates himself into their lives, it appears as though Sethe finally has a chance at stability and happiness. However, this changes when a beautiful young woman in a pretty hat emerges from nowhere and magics her way into 124.
Beloved is not your typical ghost story. It is, however, a complex character study filled to the brim with tragedy, examinations of horrific historical injustices, the pain caused by slavery, the bonds between mothers and daughters, and Mind Screws of epic proportions.
Was cited as one of the books instrumental in Morrison winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993.
It was made into a film in 1998 starring Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover.
The novel and the movie provide examples of:
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Arguably what happens to Beloved at the end.
- Blood-Splattered Innocents: Oh dear God, Sethe's children.
- Cheshire Cat Grin: Beloved's smile in the film is a rather terrifying example.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: In a non-romantic way, Denver for her mother.
- Contemplate Our Navels: Hoo boy.
- Dedication: To "sixty million and more".
- Disappeared Dad: Halle
- Double Standard Rape (Female on Male): No, it's definitely not okay.
- Dysfunctional Family: And how.
- Fan Disservice: So much. Sethe getting "milked," Beloved having sex with Paul D...
- Full-Frontal Assault: Beloved in the novel's climax.
- Heroic BSOD: Sethe's severe state of lethargy after Beloved disappears.
- Very similar to what happened to Baby Suggs after Sethe arrived at 124.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Gone horribly, HORRIBLY wrong.
- Jigsaw Puzzle Plot
- Knight Templar Parent: Sethe takes this to its extreme, tragic conclusion.
- Her personality takes a complete 180 after the ice skating scene with her, Denver, and Beloved, gradually transforming her into a warm, motherly figure. She then becomes obsessed with Beloved to the point of ignoring Denver and the outside world completely.
- Mama Bear: Played very darkly.
- Magic Realism: Beloved's original form (the ghost at 124) and later corporeal aspect are supernatural in nature, but never explained. The why of her return isn't a plot point, with the novel focusing on its effect instead.
- Mind Screw: And HOW. Arguably one of the best examples you'll find in English literature.
- My Greatest Failure: For Oprah; she spent years trying to get the film made and despite hyping it on her show for the bulk of 1998, it flopped at the box office. This is partly because Oprah stayed true to the book's dark tones, which scared off critics.
- Parental Abandonment: Beloved views her murder at the hands of her mother as Parental Abandonment.
- Pater Familicide: This is what Sethe tried when the schoolteacher arrived at 124. She succeeded in slitting Beloved's throat, severely injured her two sons, and nearly bashed Denver's brains against the shed wall. Keep in mind that her oldest children were toddlers.
- Psychopathic Womanchild: Beloved.
- Rape as Drama
- Sugar and Ice Personality: Beloved.
- Tall, Dark and Bishoujo: Beloved is described as being inhumanly beautiful, much to Paul D's dismay.
- Title Drop: Beloved, and the inscription on Sethe's daughter's tombstone.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Sethe was inspired by Margaret Garner.