Toni Morrison is a Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winner. She has also won the National Book Critics Circle Award. She is the Robert F. Goheen Professor of the Humanities, Emeritus at Princeton University.
Her novel Beloved tells the tale of a haunting.
The main character, Sethe, is haunted by her dead infant, who was buried on the farm where she was enslaved.
The infant was buried in a grave marked by one word: beloved.
The novel tells tales within the tale which is defined as metafiction.
Denver tells stories to Beloved, and in telling them not only perfects the art of storytelling, but sees the stories come to life through Beloved.
I was particularly struck by the following excerpt:
“Denver was seeing it now and feeling it – through Beloved. Seeing how it must have looked. And the more fine points she made, the more detail she provided, the more Beloved liked it. So she anticipated the questions by giving blood to the scraps her mother and grandmother had told her – and a heartbeat.” (pages 91-92) (my emphasis)
Detail is thereby the “blood” and “heartbeat” of a story and the storyteller can not feel them until someone listens in receiving.
More to follow with regard to the question of slavery in Beloved in tomorrow’s post on “The Bible in American History,” a conference that took place at The Library of Congress on Thursday of this past week.