Friday, February 18, 2022

124 and the numbers in the first paragraph of Toni Morrison's "Beloved"

Toni Morrison's "Beloved" begins with a house number – 124 – but the street name, Bluestone Road, is only mentioned later, after a flurry of numbers measuring time: 1873, which finds "Sethe and her daughter Denver" alone in the house; thirteen, the age when "the sons, Howard and Buglar, had run away" several years before; the two months separating when they each fled. Yet after the street's name comes up the number is erased: The house "didn't have a number then" (when the sons fled), "because Cincinnati didn’t stretch that far." In this first paragraph, the house number is introduced and then erased in a shift back to a time before it existed. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 18 February 2022)

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