Historical Sources for "Beloved"Does anyone have any information about particular sources Morrison accessed to write her novel?  I am very interested in slave narratives and African-American...

Historical Sources for "Beloved"

Does anyone have any information about particular sources Morrison accessed to write her novel?  I am very interested in slave narratives and African-American folktales.  I suspect Morrison had a great deal of knowledge in this area, but am not sure where to go to as direct influences.

 

 

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sagetrieb's profile pic

sagetrieb | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

Seth (without the e) was the third son of Adam and Eve (the story goes) and means "anointed" or "compensation" for he was supposedly the "compensation" for Eve's loss of Able after Cain murdered him. I have not researched the real biblical story here, but would love to hear about it if anyone has. Morrison uses biblical allusions frequently, doesn't she, as well as classical mythology?

jamie-wheeler's profile pic

Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

Morrison came across a newspaper account of a woman who had done pretty much what Sethe did, murder her child, and was sent to prison as a result--whether she was hanged for her crime I am not sure. I am searching all over for where I got that information, and I cannot locate it, so perhaps I heard it in a taped in interview. I was struck by this however, for apparently she found the article in an old Cincinnati newspaper, and having ties to Cincinnati, the information stayed in my memory. I was also struck by the ways in which novelist research to discover ideas as well as the specifics of plots. Hopefully I just didn't dream this account up one night!  Can anyone corroborate this?

Interesting!  I hope someone can come up with the actual account.  I wonder, too, about the orgins of the character's name, "Sethe"...might this be a subtle play on "Lethe," the river of forgetfulness in the Underworld?

sagetrieb's profile pic

sagetrieb | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

Morrison came across a newspaper account of a woman who had done pretty much what Sethe did, murder her child, and was sent to prison as a result--whether she was hanged for her crime I am not sure. I am searching all over for where I got that information, and I cannot locate it, so perhaps I heard it in a taped in interview. I was struck by this however, for apparently she found the article in an old Cincinnati newspaper, and having ties to Cincinnati, the information stayed in my memory. I was also struck by the ways in which novelist research to discover ideas as well as the specifics of plots. Hopefully I just didn't dream this account up one night!  Can anyone corroborate this?

hawaiigirlizzy's profile pic

hawaiigirlizzy | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

In response to the 2nd post: yes, Toni Morrison wrote the book based on the life of Margaret Garner. She was tried for killing her two year old daughter when slave catchers found her. Her story is very similar to the events that Morrison writes about. This seems to be an idea similar to Capote's writing, In Cold Blood. Both authors chose to write novels based on real life experiences, but are fictionalized accounts. As for the significance of Sethe's name, I am not sure. The use of the supernatural does seem to come out in the novel, when Beloved can return from the dead as a young woman. And the ideas of religion are also portrayed in Baby Suggs and her "revivals" out in the fields asking the people just to love themselves. Could be interesting to discuss ideas of religion and the supernatural in the novel!

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