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Beloved

The book Beloved was made into the movie Beloved.

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Book details for Beloved

Beloved was written by Toni Morrison. The book was published in 1987 by Plume. More information on the book is available on Amazon.com.

 

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In the troubled years following the Civil War, the spirit of a murdered child haunts the Ohio home of a former slave. This angry, destructive ghost breaks mirrors, leaves its fingerprints in cake icing, and generally makes life difficult for Sethe and her... Read More
In the troubled years following the Civil War, the spirit of a murdered child haunts the Ohio home of a former slave. This angry, destructive ghost breaks mirrors, leaves its fingerprints in cake icing, and generally makes life difficult for Sethe and her family; nevertheless, the woman finds the haunting oddly comforting for the spirit is that of her own dead baby, never named, thought of only as Beloved.

A dead child, a runaway slave, a terrible secret--these are the central concerns of Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize-winning Beloved. Morrison, a Nobel laureate, has written many fine novels, including Song of Solomon, The Bluest Eye, and Paradise--but Beloved is arguably her best. To modern readers, antebellum slavery is a subject so familiar that it is almost impossible to render its horrors in a way that seems neither clichéd nor melodramatic. Rapes, beatings, murders, and mutilations are recounted here, but they belong to characters so precisely drawn that the tragedy remains individual, terrifying to us because it is terrifying to the sufferer. And Morrison is master of the telling detail: in the bit, for example, a punishing piece of headgear used to discipline recalcitrant slaves, she manages to encapsulate all of slavery's many cruelties into one apt symbol--a device that deprives its wearer of speech. "Days after it was taken out, goose fat was rubbed on the corners of the mouth but nothing to soothe the tongue or take the wildness out of the eye." Most importantly, the language here, while often lyrical, is never overheated. Even as she recalls the cruelties visited upon her while a slave, Sethe is evocative without being overemotional: "Add my husband to it, watching, above me in the loft--hiding close by--the one place he thought no one would look for him, looking down on what I couldn't look at at all. And not stopping them--looking and letting it happen.... And if he was that broken then, then he is also and certainly dead now." Even the supernatural is treated as an ordinary fact of life: "Not a house in the country ain't packed to its rafters with some dead Negro's grief. We lucky this ghost is a baby," comments Sethe's mother-in-law.

Beloved is a dense, complex novel that yields up its secrets one by one. As Morrison takes us deeper into Sethe's history and her memories, the horrifying circumstances of her baby's death start to make terrible sense. And as past meets present in the shape of a mysterious young woman about the same age as Sethe's daughter would have been, the narrative builds inexorably to its powerful, painful conclusion. Beloved may well be the defining novel of slavery in America, the one that all others will be measured by. --Alix Wilber

Movie details for Beloved

The movie was released in 1998 and directed by Jonathan Demme, who also directed Clara's Heart (1988) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991). Beloved was produced by Walt Disney Video. More information on the movie is available on Amazon.com and also IMDb.

Actors on this movie include Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover, Thandie Newton, Kimberly Elise, Beah Richards, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Albert Hall, Irma P. Hall, Carol Jean Lewis, Kessia Randall, Jude Ciccolella, Anthony Chisholm, Dorothy Love Coates, Jane White, Yada Beener, Emil Pinnock, Calen Johnson, George E. Ray, Wes Bentley and Dashiell Eaves.

 

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This layered film, a labor of love from director Jonathan Demme and star Oprah Winfrey, covers a lot of turf in its nearly three-hour running time. Part slavery fable, part mother-daughter tale, part ghost story, Beloved demands an audience's full attenti... Read More
This layered film, a labor of love from director Jonathan Demme and star Oprah Winfrey, covers a lot of turf in its nearly three-hour running time. Part slavery fable, part mother-daughter tale, part ghost story, Beloved demands an audience's full attention from its dramatic, slightly bewildering opening, when a family dog comes down on the wrong side of some angry, unseen force. But Demme and his talented cast provide an unforgettable payoff for those who surrender.

The film traces the life of Sethe (played in her middle years by Winfrey), a former slave who has rebuilt what seems to be a peaceful, productive life in Ohio. Yet through chilling, sparing use of flashback, Demme slowly unveils, as does the Toni Morrison masterpiece on which the film is based, the horrors of Sethe's former life, and the terrible event that led to the haunting of Sethe's home.

While the horrors of slavery and the bloody event in Sethe's family leave undeniable impressions, the film's brilliance is also evidenced in smaller, equally satisfying ways. Rachel Portman's spiritual-influenced score is as uplifting as it is haunting, and the glimpses of the post-slavery African American world--as with a simple family outing to a local carnival, or a ladies' sewing-and-gospel circle--make this a treat for the intellect as well as the heart. The members of the cast, especially Kimberly Elise as Sethe's struggling daughter and Thandie Newton as the mysterious title character, are supremely affecting. --Anne Hurley