Saturday, February 19, 2022

The date and the spans of time mentioned and implied in the first paragraph of Toni Morrison's "Beloved"

The year mentioned in the first paragraph of Toni Morrison's "Beloved" is 1873; the place is Cincinnati, Ohio. At this time, the paragraph says, Sethe and her daughter Denver are the only residents of 124 Bluestone Road; her sons left a few years earlier at thirteen. The numbers lead to arithmetic: it may be 1873 right now, but Sethe's children must have been born before 1860, and hence before the American Civil War, which (despite claims to the contrary) was fought by the Southern states to defend slavery. So that span of time introduces slavery even before the novel mentions that Sethe herself had been enslaved and had escaped from enslavement. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 19 February 2022)

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