Why, specifically, do you think Morrison wrote this novel? How is this novel different than anything we have read thus far?



Discussion Questions


1)      As best as you can, put the events in Part 1 of Beloved into chronological order. Include only the major events that pertain to all the major characters. Now, what order are these events presented in the novel? Develop a theory or two for why Morrison chose this type of “non-chronological” narrative structure?


2)      Morrison’s novel utilizes the technique of magical realism, which is a fusion of the supernatural and the “real” or ordinary. Through elements of magical realism, Morrison can explore the internal realities of her characters—the conscious experience and its mysteries. What kind of supernatural elements are incorporated in the text? What realities do these things point to? Who, or what, is Beloved, for example? Is she “good,” “evil”? Support your answer based on specific evidence in the text.


3)      Offer some interpretations for the following metaphors: the chokecherry tree on Sethe’s back, Paul D’s tin tobacco box for a heart, and the forest that springs up between Paul D and Sethe (194-5). What ideas do these metaphors point to in the novel at large?


4)      Locate a chapter, any chapter, where point of view shifts at least three times. Is this form of narration disorienting to the reader? Why does Morrison chose this form of narrative technique—what we might call a mosaic of narrative perspectives? (think, especially, about whose perspectives she relates and her strategy behind this)


5)      The novel builds in tension and mystery as to the exact nature of Sethe’s “crime” after her escape from Sweet Home. Why, when we finally get to the “truth” of Sethe’s “crime,” is the story told—initially—from Schoolteacher’s and his nephew’s points of view. To what extent is Schoolteacher’s point of view reflective of a larger “grand narrative” (whose grade narrative??)?


6)      Discuss the differences in how Sethe and Paul D define love. You may begin by looking at the following places: Paul D on love, page 54 and 191 and his statement that her love is “too thick” on page 193. Sethe, who loved “with a handsaw” (193), says to Denver that the baby ghost’s spell is “No more powerful than the way I loved her” (5). Why are their views incongruous?  What is “motherlove” as it’s portrayed, and perhaps redefined, in the novel?