The Importance Of Names In Toni Morrison's Beloved

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Names have always held power in literature; whether it is the defeated giant Polyphemus cursing Odysseus due to him pridefully announcing his name or how the true name of the Hebrew god was considered so potent that the word was forbidden. In fact, names were given power in tales dating all the way back to the 24th century B.C.E. when the goddess Isis became as strong as the sun god Ra after tricking him into revealing his true name. And in Toni Morrison’s Beloved, names have a much stronger cultural significance; and in the case of the character known as “Beloved”, her name is essentially her whole existence. Morrison shows the true power a name holds in African American literature through the character known as “Beloved”, as her role in the story becomes defined by the name she is given and changes in the final moments of the chapter. The character Beloved is an anomaly in the story, and is the whole crux of the plot of the story as well. Her name, or lack thereof, is allegorical and the most defining character trait that she has throughout the whole book. As a character, she is a mysterious entity who latches onto Sethe and her family who feeds off their attention, and reveals little to nothing about who she is. Besides these traits, her name leaves most readers to believe that this character is the ghost of Sethe’s unnamed baby that she murdered; as we know the baby’s headstone has the word “Beloved” written on it due to Sethe misinterpreting what the pastor said

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