Identity In Toni Morrison's Beloved

851 Words4 Pages
Identity and the Future in Beloved In every time period and place, storytelling is a way to connect to one 's cultural and personal identity as well as pass on wisdom to the next generation. In Beloved, author Toni Morrison uses storytelling 's impact on identity in the context of the horrific institution of slavery. Though the legacy of slavery is painful and it often seems like forgetting it completely is the best option, the truth is that one 's past and one 's identity are deeply, unalterably connected. In order to find the identity that slavery denied them for so long, the novel 's characters are forced to break their silence and come to terms with the past. In the novel 's final pages, Morrison asks whether today 's society should practice…show more content…
Through Beloved, Morrison finally gives all former slaves, "disremembered and unaccounted for", a voice. Beloved tries her hardest to become a real person throughout the novel, but she simply remains the ghost of a baby, one who "crouches" in the fetal position and who needs an "underwater face". Her identity is blurred, half-developed, and soon deliberately forgotten by all the people she once knew. Beloved tries to escape the taint of slavery by "open[ing] the locks the rain rained on", hoping to pry the chains apart easily with just her fingernails. However, slavery is far more complicated than that. The lock may never be opened, just as those who experienced slavery will never get to claim an identity or speak their truth, but "lichen" with an "apple-green bloom" may still grow there. New life will grow not in the absence of the past, but along with the past 's legacy. Morrison repeats the words, "It was not a story to pass on" several times in the novel 's final pages, suggesting that perhaps she believes silence and forgetting are the appropriate way to move on from slavery. However, her connection of Beloved to the shared African-American identity, as well as her very writing of the novel itself, suggest otherwise. It is only through remembering slavery that one can avoid passing it on - that is, avoid allowing society to repeat the same mistakes. Morrison 's deliberate tense shift on page 324 is a call to action urging people today to remember slavery: "This is not a story to pass on". Even the final word of the novel - simply Beloved 's name - encourages readers to name and accept the past. By finally giving the legacy of slavery a name instead of using "she" and "her", Morrison shows that coming to terms with the past can lead to a rewarding
Open Document