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Themes

Toni Morrison doesn't hold back when talking about slavery. In Beloved, we get all sides. For starters, there's the outright brutality and abuse of the system. That's the part we can all agree on. Then there are the grey areas. Examples? Beloved is full of 'em: a white slaveowner who treats his slaves as "real men"; a fugitive slave who kills her daughter so her daughter won't be caught by slavecatchers; a handful of white people who go above and beyond to help of fugitive slaves. Is there room for moral fuzziness on the topic of slavery? In Beloved there sure is.

Questions About Slavery

  1. Is Mr. Garner a good guy or is he as bad a slavemaster as schoolteacher?
  2. How does slavery affect the male ex-slaves differently from the female ex-slaves in the book?
  3. What do abolitionists like the Bodwins get out of their work on behalf of slaves?
  4. What role does the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 play in Beloved?

Chew on This

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

In Beloved, it's impossible for a white person—no matter how well-intentioned—to truly understand the effects of slavery

Beloved's "memories" of the Middle Passage are meant to instill in us a collective memory.

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