Analyze infanticide within the context of the slave mother
Identify issues of repression and signs of rebellion
Discuss Morrison’s narrative style and its impact upon the reader
Beloved opens with an introduction to a baby ghost. The ghost has been haunting Sethe and her household for eighteen years. As the novel unfolds the reader learns Sethe’s story through Morrison’s stream of conscious narrative. Sethe a fugitive slave escaped her owners while nine months pregnant. The night she finally decides to flee, her owner’s nephews held her down and took her milk from her. Sethe gives birth to her daughter Denver, her fourth child, while on the run. She stays with her mother in-law where slave catchers eventually locate her. When the slave catchers find Sethe in a shed she is holding her murdered daughter in her arms and attempting to bludgeon her infant against the shed wall. The white men are appalled with Sethe’s seemingly inexplicable behavior and back away in horror. They do not attempt to reclaim Sethe or her living children, as she is clearly insane. Sethe is left with the three children she has saved with her heinous action. By murdering her daughter she has saved herself and her children from a life of bondage and tragedy.
The narrative does not unfold sequentially. The reader learns through a series of flashbacks and narrative. Beloved deals with an unspeakable evil and through a perverse means outlines infanticide as a loving mother’s most humane option.
Activities for Beloved
Before reading the novel students will be asked what is the true meaning of motherhood?
What is the ultimate sacrifice a mother can make?
What is the most important thing a mother can do?
While reading the novel students will be asked to form a time line in their journals. This time line will chronicle the events in the story.
Upon completing the novel students will have three writing assignments.
Was Sethe’s act heinous or humane?
Was motherhood a biological asset or social liability for slave women?
Describe Morrison’s narrative style and its impact upon the novel’s themes.
Conclusion and Final Project