Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Navigating Cruelty and Humanity: A Review of Beloved by Toni Morrison

BelovedBeloved by Toni Morrison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was blown away. At times I felt confused by the narration (I wasn't sure who was talking in certain chapters) but overall, it was a very moving story. Slavery is a state that cannot be described without a breakdown or a madness of some sort (I think this accounts for the confusion that I felt as I was reading the novel). Colonialism is a state of slavery as well...under the guise of religious conversion or "benevolent" aid. So, in a way, I can relate to this story as part of my education of my colonial past (in context of my postcolonial state).

"White people believed that whatever the manners, under every dark skin was a jungle. Swift unnavigable waters, swinging screaming baboons, sleeping snakes, red gums ready for their sweet white blood. In a way . . . they were right. . . . But it wasn’t the jungle blacks brought with them to this place. . . . It was the jungle whitefolks planted in them. And it grew. It spread . . . until it invaded the whites who had made it. . . . Made them bloody, silly, worse than even they wanted to be, so scared were they of the jungle they had made. The screaming baboon lived under their own white skin; the red gums were their own."

I don't know what real cruelty is like. This was a cruelty that defies explanation. The "whitefolks" in this novel is a race that does not know how to be human to other human beings of different color. The same race that came up with The Declaration of also the same race responsible for this slavery. Paradox. Irony. Humanity.

"And if she thought anything, it was No. No. Nono. Nonono. Simple. She just flew. Collected every bit of life she had made, all the parts of her that were precious and fine and beautiful, and carried, pushed, dragged them through the veil, out, away, over there where no one could hurt them. Over there. Outside this place, where they would be safe."

And lastly, I view this novel through a mother's eyes. Would I be able to do what Sethe did? This was a different kind of "Sophie's Choice." But a choice nevertheless. A choice to go back to being a slave or to be free...even if that freedom is death. I don't know. I just count myself lucky (and blessed) that I do not have to make this choice at all. This novel shows me that what is deeply personal is also political...and what is political affects the deeply personal.

Definitely worth all my time and a must-read for understanding the journey of humanity.

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