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“Beloved” by Toni Morrison: A Symbolic Importance of the Novel


Thesis Statement: Mysteriously, the phrase “It was not story to pass on” evolves and echoes in the succeeding words of chapter, like a warning: “This is not story to pass on”. In this way, Morrison conveys a more sophisticated idea about history of slaves that have been eradicated over the centuries by the forced silence and intended forgetfulness. By this phrase, Morrison wants to say that it is very hard to keep memory about those horrible events in the past.

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In the last chapter of Beloved, Toni Morrison resorts to a symbolic meaning of the ghost’s appearance in the house at Bluestone. Never satisfied and comforted Beloved is doomed to roam about the house thus mortifying and torturing the dwellers of the house, Paul and Sethe. In this way, the author intends to render the inevitability of the influence of the past through the insertion of Beloved important function – messenger of the past.

Throughout the story, Morrison filters all of the events through different sides of Sethe and her family members where each chapter ends up with a more generalized and abstracted idea. As a result, the readers can observe the repetitiveness of phrase “It was not story to pass on” which expresses the spirit of Sethe incapability to forget Beloved, as she always flashbacks from the past. Mysteriously, the phrase “It was not story to pass on” evolves and echoes in the succeeding words of chapter, like a warning: “This is not story to pass on”. In this way, Morrison conveys a more sophisticated idea about history of slaves that have been eradicated over the centuries by the forced silence and intended forgetfulness. By this phrase, Morrison wants to say that it is very hard to keep memory about those horrible events in the past.

Literary devices

The end pages of the story reveal the interaction between the structures that implicitly and explicitly render the conceptual and ideational scope of black women’s writing. In particular, Morrison’s novel personifies the prevalence of oppositional structures in the novel appearing as a means “that mediates the speech and narrative, the visual and the cognitive, and the time and space” (Andrew and McKay 69).

Those elements create a framing structure that trigger the readers to more philosophical deliberations. In particular, although the narrative structure is assimilated into ongoing recollections of Beloved, the idea of the text survives so that the reader can preserve his/her participation in mediations despite being swallowed by the heroine’s overwhelming recollections about her painful past. The interaction between the reader and the main heroes of the story thus attempting to show that this story pertains to everyone and that it is impossible to experience the present events without remembering the past.

Interpretations of the phrase

The final phrases found their explanation in numerous works of other writers and philosophers who were also mesmerized by the literal structure and content of the book. In particular, Morrison manages to encapsulate all the experience of black people that is often ignores by other Western narratives, which is “childbirth and nursing from a mother’s perspective, the desires of a preverbal infant, and the suffering of those destroyed by slavery” (Wyatt 474). At this point, by means of the ghost story approach, the author expresses the feelings of preverbal infant murdered by a desperate mother intending to save her childe from slavery.

This encounter of material and spiritual creates the link between the past and the present where the latter unveil mother’s desire to return her child and to pray for forgiveness. By making the presence of the ghost real, Morrison also intends to emphasize the symbolic meaning of child’s entry into the text as a shift from material representation of the heroes to abstract indicators. This is a kind of critical path from the maternal to slavery interpretations.

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One may interpret the phrase ‘…pass on’ to mean that the events should never be repeated again. The phrase does not necessarily imply the retelling of a story. It implies that the future generation should not ignore or forget the story. At the beginning of the chapter, the author dedicates the book to 60million slaves. In addition, the author uses the word ‘Beloved’ at the end of the chapter. This simply implies the number of people who suffered from slavery.

The book ‘Beloved’ can be interpreted in the sense that the story should not be passed on partly because the events reveal the past and the story is disheartening. According to Aroussi, the first phrase (‘it was not a story to pass on’) means that “the story of Beloved should not be repeated, and should not occur again. Meanwhile, it cannot be rejected or be bypassed due to its strong historical message.” The same writer further states that, “The second refrain corroborates this idea. The story of Beloved should be transmitted from one generation to another to become a part of the Afro-American collective memory” (Arrousi1).

Andrews and McKay stated that “Beloved is the forgotten spirit of the past that must ‘be loved’ even if it is unlovable and elusive” (Andrews and McKay 124).The same author further states that, “The line recapitulates the tension between repression and rememory featured throughout the novel. At the same time, the more evident meaning is intensely ironic…” (Andrews and McKay 124).

Miles tries to interpret the above phrase by stating, that Morrison did pass those events on by writing it and rendering the main idea of the story. The ending chapters are the outcome of her gradual unveils the scope of writing where Morrison unveils the veritable underpinning of the concrete story thus imparting her narration with ability to bear the historical message. With the help of persuasive epithets and painful phrases, the author makes us call for our feelings and historical awareness (Miles XV).

Sethe as a Maternal Symbol

The phrases under consideration help to shift from the physical to symbolic representation of Seth as a maternal symbol. In this respect, the Sethe’s adventure and moving from the slavery to freedom is also a journey for a maternal quest that were lost. Here the maternity is also not a story to pass on. Here the main heroine is depicted as a heroic slave mother whose child is also depicted as the victim of slave. The representation of ghost can be also perceived as Sethe’s attempt to resort to maternity and to compensate her moral and physical necessity.

Retelling the Story of Slavery trough Sethe’s Tragedy

The resurrection of the past is a very painful process, and the Morrison’s story is rather difficulty to reed, indeed. This is explained by the idea that it is almost impossible to link the mysterious character and the veritable representation of slavery past. However, while engaging into this disturbing and mysterious story, it is possible to understand the past and to recognize it.

Telling one’s story means recalling the events of slavery and preventing similar occurrence. Retelling ones story is not ignoring the events that occurred during slavery. Furthermore, dealing with the past and focusing on the future. The author has retold the slaves’ story through narrative and flashbacks. This ensures that people are able to live in the future without dwelling in the past. Telling one’s story helps the world understand what happened in the past. As a result, the world becomes cautious of historic injustices. We see the use of flashback when Sethe remembers the horrors at Sweet home farm.

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Morrison retells the stories of more than 60 million slaves. She dedicates the book to all the slaves. ‘Beloved’ is a historical book which leads the reader through a painful experience on slavery. Morrison unveils events taking place at the Sweet home farm. In the story, it is possible to sense the atmosphere of the hatred and contempt towards the black people. In particular this can be brightly seen the comparison made by the schoolteacher views slaves as animals. In other circumstances, he considers them less of animals. The schoolteacher says that the dead animals’ skin is much more worth than a slave’s skin.

Therefore, Morrison takes us through Sethe’s life. At the beginning of the chapter, Sethe seems to be normal. Her relationship with Paul D. and her daughter, Denver seems to be normal until a stranger shows up in their house. The stranger does not know where she is from but all she knows is that her name is Beloved. As times goes by, Sethe concludes, that Beloved is a reincarnation of her dead child. Sethe becomes attached to Beloved. As she continues to live with them, things start going haywire. Beloved’s demands get worse and Sethe tries her best to please the ghost.

The author retells the slaves’ story by telling us Sethe’s story. The concept is to tell the readers of what really happened at Sweet home. In addition, it helps Sethe deal with her past. The characters soon forget about Beloved like a bad dream. However, this takes time. The community still feels Beloved’s presence. This illustration implies that although slavery is outdated, the effects are still seen in the society.

The author illustrates how Sethe deals with her past. The author uses Beloved to retell the horrors of slavery. This traumatizes Sethe. However, Morrison uses Beloved’s character to help Sethe deal with the painful experience. Sethe almost suffers from insanity after Beloved disappears. Seth would have died of psychological trauma had she not dealt with her past. We observe that after Beloved’s disappearance Sethe is depressed thus losing her desire to live. She could neither work nor eat. She was unkempt and she had no desire to live. She was just like her mother-in-law who had given up in life. She had lost her identity.

She was known as a spiritualist. As time goes by, Sethe soon forgets Beloved. Paul comes back to Sethe’s life and life goes back to normal. The community at large moves on although memories of Beloved remain. However, for the readers the story has to be ‘passed on’. This will ensure that people understand the past to live further and to create future. The story also helps the readers to be at ease with the past so that the effects of slavery should be more evident. Stories do indeed save as they help people deal with the past. It is evident that stories ensure that past injustices do not occur again.

The interpretation of Redemption through Morrison’s Story

Morrison illustrates the power of redemption through love. This is illustrated when Paul returns to find Sethe traumatized. Sethe is later able to move on. As a character, Beloved has been used to narrate the harsh realities of slavery. The use of this narrative helps the other characters in the book deal with their past. Beloved disappears and with time, the characters are able to redeem themselves of the past. This as a result frees them psychologically and presents a brighter future. According to Schulman, “Beloved dramatizes the power of the idea of redemption, exposing redemption as a problem in ways that lead readers (if not characters) to work through (if not move beyond) it. Making the wish of redemption and the ways, we practice it a problem we must face for the sake of our freedom…” (Schulman 176).

In illustrating redemption, the story observes the importance of the community in helping a person heal. In the last chapter, the author illustrates how Ella gathers a group of women for prayers. The women begin to sing and chant as they prepare to help save Sethe from Beloved.

Morrison’s novel can be also interpreted as the story of revelation and resurrections. The appearance of the ghost of Beloved as the reminder of the past can be also perceived through the religious prism and through addressing infanticide as a historical trauma for black people experiencing racial discrimination. The story also interprets the child’s murder as an apocalyptic sign as the end of the tortures and the advent of the Doom day.

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According to Khawaja et al., “the apocalyptic trauma is merely a passing state that promises moral rectitude and change in the future” (115). This perspective of considerations of the phrase “it was not a story to pass on” leads us to the idea that Belowed that apocalypse is closely associated with the trauma and the hope for changes which are possible through destruction and murder. At this point, Morrison’s work reveals that the only way to liberate black people from slavery is possible through sacrifice, which is also the method to receive bliss.

The moment of murder correlates with cyclic orders of all natural phenomena where death and revelation are identical according to Christian beliefs. Hence, the death of Beloved can be compared with the Jesus’s tortures for the sake of humanity welfare. In this respect, it is possible to sense the link with the Beloved with the Christ who had been killed and resurrected in the form of the ghost.


Drawing a conclusion, it is worth saying that the final chapters of Morrison’s Beloved represent the shift from concrete tragedy of the slaved to the universal importance of the forgotten past, which should be valued by people. Viewing the phrase through different dimensions, Morrison’s “It was not story to pass on” and “It is not story to pass on” can also revealed as literary device to integrate the reader’s attention and to raise their awareness of the forgotten past. Second, the phrase also means the Sethe’s tragedy and Beloved’s murder as the Christian motive for revelation and reincarnation of the spirit of black people. Finally, this is also the representation of slavery’s past and the hardships and sacrifices people had to overcome to reach better future.

Works Cited

Andrews, Williams and MacKay, Nelly. Toni Morrison Beloved: A case Book. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. Print.

Aroussi el Adil. Fiction and History in Toni Morrison’s Beloved. South Carolina: University Press of Carolina. 2008. Web.

Khawaja, Mabel, Suggs Jon-Christian, and Berger James. Toni Morrison’s Beloved. PMLA. 112.1 (1997): 115-118.

Miles, Tiley. The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom. Los Angeles: University of California Press, Ltd, 2005. Print.

Morrison, Toni Beloved. New York: Alfred.A. Knopf, 1987. Print. pp. 258, 275.

Shulman, George. American Prophecy: Race and redemption in American Political Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008. Print.

Wyatt, John. Giving Body to the Word: The Maternal Symbolic in Toni Morrison’s Beloved. PMLA, 108.3 (1993): 474-488.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, December 7). “Beloved” by Toni Morrison: A Symbolic Importance of the Novel.

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"“Beloved” by Toni Morrison: A Symbolic Importance of the Novel." StudyCorgi, 7 Dec. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "“Beloved” by Toni Morrison: A Symbolic Importance of the Novel." December 7, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "“Beloved” by Toni Morrison: A Symbolic Importance of the Novel." December 7, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "“Beloved” by Toni Morrison: A Symbolic Importance of the Novel." December 7, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) '“Beloved” by Toni Morrison: A Symbolic Importance of the Novel'. 7 December.

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