Illuminating The Minds Essay

2372 words - 10 pages

Life happens in first-person. People struggle to ascertain each other’s thoughts and desires because of our natural opacity. However, as we develop relationships, we discover the personality of others. In literature, authors attempt to create similar connections and links between readers and characters through their points of view and narrative techniques. This empathy and emotional connection assists the author in conveying the novel’s central meaning. A first-person point of view allows the reader to create a connection to the narrator, but a third-person omniscient establishes connections with each of the characters. This connection deepens as the author exposes the characters’ backgrounds. In Beloved, Toni Morrison narrates the story primarily from a third-person omniscient point of view. However, since the narration begins in medias res, or in the middle of the story, Morrison writes with frequent flashbacks so readers can relate more deeply with the main characters. She also shifts into stream of consciousness narration for a small section, allowing further exploration of the minds of Sethe, Denver, and Beloved. Morrison’s variety of narrative techniques illuminates the minds of the characters in the novel, slowly exposes their turbid, pain-filled past, and explores their struggle to find their identity.
Morrison writes Beloved in medias res, so she must give sufficient background information about the characters in order to explain their current actions. However, in Beloved, so much of the present action relies on the consequences of past experiences that mere summary would not be sufficient. Because the novel relies heavily on past events at Sweet Home or in the early years in Ohio, Morrison breaks the typical linear time structure and juxtaposes past and present to convey the connection between characters’ pasts and the present. She rearranges the time order to make past and present interact with each other, because for many of the characters, the past defines the present. Sethe is the protective mother of Denver and Beloved because her mother was not; she never had the chance to be a daughter. As Sethe recalls, “[her mother] never fixed my hair nor nothing. She didn’t even sleep in the same cabin most nights I remember.” (Morrison 65) Feeling abandoned, Sethe resolves never to do the same to her own children; “[she] wouldn’t draw breath without [her] children.” (213) When Schoolteacher’s nephews take her milk, she feels violated not only as a woman but also, and even more so, as a mother because the men rob her of the ability to provide for and care for her children—her maternal duty. When she sends her children off to Ohio, she promises that “the milk would be there and [she] would be there with it,” (17) so it hurts her to know that they are living hungry and alone. Throughout the novel, Morrison reveals aspects of Sethe’s character with eye-opening flashbacks.
Like Sethe’s, Paul D’s past defines his present. Paul D is unsure about...

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