Monday, October 15, 2012

Beloved - A Classics Challenge October: Chapter Musing

October prompt for A Classics Challenge is….

Chapter Musing

Jot down some notes about the chapter you've just read or one that struck you the most. It can be as simple as a few words you learned, some quotes, a summary, or your thoughts and impressions.

This time I’ll pick a powerful novel by Toni Morrison: Beloved. This is a dark chronicle about slavery, and the particular passage I choose is from Chapter 15 (p. 140 – 141). Baby Suggs was a black old woman slave who has been freed by her son. This passage reflected how she felt on the day of her freedom, after having been a slave for sixty years!

The sadness was at her center, the desolated center where the self that was no self made its home. Sad as it was that she did not know where her children were buried or what they looked like if alive, fact was she knew more about them than she knew about herself, having never had the map to discover what she was alike."

 "Could she sing? (was it nice to hear when she did?) Was she pretty? Was she a good friend? Could she have been a loving mother? A faithful wife? Have I got a sister and does she favor me? If my mother knew me, would she like me?” ~ p.140

Hope by George Frederic Watts, 
an oil on canvas, 1885

She didn’t know what she looked like and was not curious. But suddenly she saw her hands and thought with a clarity as simple as it was dazzling, “These hands belong to me. These my hands.” Next she felt a knocking in her chest and discovered something else new: her own heartbeat. Had it been there all along? She felt like a fool and began to laugh out loud.” ~ p.141

I was kind of struck by this passage. It will never have occurred to me that when ones were born as slaves, they could never possess anything in their life. Everything belonged to their masters, and everything they could get, they got from the masters, even their names. The masters used to split families, and sold children to separate buyers to cut any relationship of the slaves. They never knew who they were in this world, they just did not have the root and probably have never existed, if nobody bought them freedom. They would never know many things about their qualities, and…well…there were so many things they would never experienced, although they had never done anything wrong.

It’s really a tragedy when innocent people were dehumanized by others; when they did not permitted to have even themselves as a human. Reading about how Baby Suggs was surprised to realize that her hands now belonged to her, that her heart was pounding to give herself a life was...well, that was a powerful image, really!

And I just realized something, which one is better for them: living their whole lives as slaves, or like Baby Suggs, could experience freedom at last? But after they have been enslaved for all their lives, could they manage to survive in the world alone (if they had been separated from the families)? That would be awful… :(


  1. It is a powerful novel and your quote is so sad and very thought-provoking. Great choice.

    1. And that isn't the only one. The last chapters are really heartbreaking!


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