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Themes

The past conjures up all sorts of little nasties in Beloved. Oh, and it also conjures up actual dead people. Why? Well, in part because no one can leave the past and all its traumas behind. You might say that the past is a little like a vampire that sucks the lifeblood out of some of our major characters—and not in a sexy, Robert Pattinson, kind of way. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. To forget the past is a big no-no for Morrison; that would be like forgetting that slavery existed at all. Instead, through her characters, our author urges us to maintain a collective memory of this dark period of American history.

Questions About Memory and the Past

  1. Why does Morrison use terms like "rememory" and "disremember"? Why not just stick with the standards?
  2. How is Beloved's sense of the past different from Sethe's and Denver's?
  3. How does Paul D deal with the past throughout the novel?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

In Beloved, the past isn't just one thing—it's more like a collection of stories that changes with each person's telling.

Forgetting Beloved is about as bad as Sethe's killing of her baby girl.

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