Beloved Ideas for Group Discussions
by Toni Morrison

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Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The range of possibilities for stimulating conversation about Beloved are nearly endless. Perhaps the most fruitful areas involve tone, or the attitudes toward the characters and circumstances implicit in the diction and arrangement of details. Is Beloved a ghost or a daughter come back to life? Is her obsession to possess Sethe's life treated as a dreadful, or as an inevitable, consequence of Sethe's taking her life? Can their interaction be viewed as positive or as negative for Sethe's healing? Is Sethe on the path to recovery at the novel's end?

In addition to these questions, groups might engage in these kinds of more focused investigation:

1. Why does Morrison represent the Garners, who owned Sweet Home, as well-intentioned individuals ("nice Nazis") who engage in an immoral enterprise, rather than as mendacious, cruel villains like Simon Legree in Uncle Tom's Cabin?

2. In the miraculous account of Denver's birth, what are we to make of Amy Denver's assistance? Is she a "good Samaritan," and is her desire to escape to Boston a parallel for the slaves' hope to get to Ohio?

3. Was Stamp Paid right in deciding he had an obligation to tell Paul D about Sethe's past?

4. What attitudes toward Beloved and her story are expressed in the final chapter? How do these sum up the meanings of her story? Why does the narrator say three times that the story we've just read is "not a story to pass on"?

5. Is Baby Suggs's message of self-love for the ex-slaves an implicit criticism of the complicity of Christianity, with its emphasis on patient forbearance and rewards in heaven, in the whole slave enterprise?