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Beloved Seminar QuestionsIf you are a plot-driven reader you will be frustrated with this book, especially at first. The story slowly lets out little slivers of Sethe's…
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Beloved Seminar QuestionsIf you are a plot-driven reader you will be frustrated with this book, especially at first. The story slowly lets out little slivers of Sethe's and the other characters' memories that the reader must attempt to organize in a logical manner. Notice how the characters circle and circle around what happened. Why do they do this, and how does it affect the telling of the story?Narrative StructureOne place we see this circling is at the end of part 1 when we get more history of 124 from Baby Suggs’ arrival to the arrival of the four horsemen to Paul D.’s leaving. Starting from when Paul D. sees the newspaper clipping, look back at this section and pick out a specific detail or word choice that seems particularly important and explain its significance.Narrative StructureThere are numerous ways in which the syntax, structure, and style of Beloved mimics the culture it represents. One of these methods is the use of Biblical allusions.Find an example of a Biblical allusion and explain its significance.Biblical AllusionsThere are a lot of subtle, and not so subtle, symbols, motifs, recurrent images, etc. throughout Beloved. Find specific examples of the following and explain their significance:
  • The number four
  • Water -- Boat Bridge
  • Amy Denver
  • Shadows
  • Colors (red)
  • Hands
  • Anything else? . . . Tree(s) . . . milk?
  • AllegoryUsing specific details from the text, discuss the journey depicted in Beloved through one of the five stages of grief:
  • Denial (meh, we’ve already talked about that)
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance
  • Kubler-Ross Stages of GriefSlave narratives, such as Frederick Douglass's autobiography, are the starting point of the African-American literary tradition. One of the biggest themes in Frederick Douglass's story is the question of his name, or his identity. Birth records were kept from slaves. Names were often chosen, changed, or modified by the enslavers. Escaped slaves often changed their names to evade capture, etc.
  • How does this issue relate to Beloved?
  • Choose a character and analyze his or her name.
  • NamingSelect the word or phrase from the I Am Belovedchapters that you feel is most essential to the passage. Why did you select that word or phrase?
  • Who is the dead man on the speaker’s face?
  • Who are the men without skin?
  • What is a hot thing?
  • What do think the speaker means when she talks about losing Sethe three times?
  • Why is there such repetition of the word, mine?
  • I am BelovedThere are numerous graphic moments that command your attention, on the parts of both white people and black people from Sethe’s milking to Paul D’s sexual perversions (with a ghost?!), and Morrison does not shy away from them.Why? What statement(s) is Morrison making through these grotesque episodes?Ew, why did I just read that?How are the various conflicts in Beloved resolved? Denver’s, Beloved’s, Sethe’s, the community and its members, etc.
  • How is manhood defined and how is it resolved for Paul D.
  • How would you classify this resolution and why? Redemptive? Believable? Cathartic?
  • Resolution“You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man.” – Frederick DouglassHow does this quote and concept relate to Beloved?
  • Think about the use of the term man throughout and how it’s defined
  • Man vs. SlaveWhile the narrative structure occurs conically as opposed to linearly, the layers of allegory work likewise. Trace the allegory embedded within this story Slave TradeSlave trade and slavery in AmericaPost-slavery African-American communitiesPersonal histories Allegory and Levels of Healing
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