Sunteți pe pagina 1din 54
Toni Morrison’s Beloved Jaime Estrada Smith College
Toni Morrison’s Beloved
Jaime Estrada
Smith College

Table of Contents



“Supplemental” Web Sources


Overarching Lessons


Rationale and Overview


Daily Assessments


Suggested Comparative Reading


Methods of Inquiry


AP Standards


Laying the Foundation: Building Academic Excellence


Teaching Racially Sensitive Literature: A Teacher’s Guide


Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs


Backwards by Design: Final Assessment


Day One: Who is Toni Morrison?




Day Two: Pleasing Denver


Sample Close Reading Assignment


Day Three: “Rememories” — Memory and History in Beloved


Day Four: The Building, 124 – A Haunted House and the Physical Arrival of the Ghost



Day Fi ve: Character Mapping and Slavery as a Generational Experience


Weekend take ­ home reading assignment:




New York Times Book Review Response Ques tions


Second Week


Day Six: Slave Narratives, Community and Embodiment


Day Seven: What Does Beloved Want?


Day Eight: Representations of Femin inity and Masculinity in the Novel


Day Nine: The Paternalism Argument


Day Nine Homework: Short Textual Analysis and Example


Day Ten: Life at 124 without men and flashbac ks to Sweet Home


Third Week


Day Eleven: Whites, “the men with no skin”


Day Twelve: 236 ­ 264 — Delusion and Downfall


Sample Close Reading of a Quote


Day Fourteen: Creative Writing, the Epilogue


Student Epilogue Sample


Day Fifteen: Timed in ­ class essay about Beloved


Student In ­ Class Essay Sample



Students will be asked at the end of the preceding unit to prepare for Beloved by reading the prologue to Steve n Weisenburger’s Modern Medea before they read the first Morrison reading assignment.

Weisenburger’s quick and entertaining overview of the Margaret Garner case is very useful for the AP English 12 class because it suggests some of the cultural work that Morrison’s book has done while still leaving room for the students to form their own critical opinions.

“Supplemental” Web Sources

Make no mistake, your students will be relying on their Generation X technological skills to find alternate ways of understa nding the material you’ll be presenting. Be aware of the content about Beloved, Modern Medea and Margaret Garner on websites like Spark Notes, Cliff Notes, Wikipedia and Google Books. Do Google searches of your own with words like “Beloved summary,” “Marga ret Garner” and “Modern Medea” just to see what pops up for your own reference.

Medea” just to see what pops up for your own reference. Note that just for Beloved

Note that just for Beloved alone, they can download a PDF of the Sparknotes edition with useful tidbits like Summary and Anal ysis of the chapters, Theme, Motifs and Symbols , and Analysis of Major Characters . You want to teach to your students

assuming that some if not all of them have this in their electronic pockets as a crutch. Find ways to incorporate what these sources have to offer into your lesson plan. It may seem sac rilegious but using technologies that students are already accustomed to can engage them and make them feel more comfortable approaching the text. Even in AP class, if the discussion is lagging — maybe it’s time to pull up a familiar window like this and dis cuss the information that’s out there, then offer your own professional opinion and analysis as an instructor and guide students into adding their OWN, personal close reading of the text in addition to what they can read online.

The knowledge that you are aware of these sources and are well versed in the knowledge they contain will show your students that they cannot just riff on what’s already out there because you too have access to it and review it. Centralize the student and his or her ideas and they w ill be less likely to lean on technology and more excited about jumping into the text on their own. Encourage an environment of the student loving his or herself loving the text.

Overarching Lessons

Intertextuality — how Beloved is in conversation with Modern Medea and how Modern Medea is in conversation with Beloved. We will also look at a book review from the New York Times and talk briefly

Close reading— Students need to be proficient in the close reading of a varied style of narrative writing in order to do well on the AP English Literature exam.

Some strategies that will be emphasized in this unit are:

Annotation Determining Author’s Purpose Determining Fact and Opinion (or in this case, creative license) Discussion

The literary elemen ts that will be important are:

Mood Point of View – Shifts Rhetorical shifts syntax imagery

In order to shed fair light on the book, we will also talk about it s critical reception.

Rationale and Overview

AP 12 th Grade Unit on Toni Morrison’s B eloved

‐ 3 week lesson plan , 15 forty‐ five minute classes on Beloved ‐ 5 days a week/ 45 minutes each Description of daily lesson and discussion of questions to be asked

Rationale (I used to NCTE guide to writing rationales Rationale_HowtoWrite.pdf):


For what classes is this book especially appropriate?

I chose to make this book for 12 th grade Advanced English because the content is dark and difficult. The plot is difficult to follow even for a college level reader and the narrative is unusual. There are difficult scenes of rape, violence and psychological trauma. I plan to clips of the 1998 film and will not be showing the entire film because of sensitive scenes.

· To what particular objectives, literary or psycholog ical or pedagogical, does this book lend itself? Beloved opens up a discussion of color, race, slavery and abuse. It also lends to the discussion of neo ­slave narrative — what slave narratives are and why they’re important. The book emphasizes a need for the reader to actively participate in helping Denver reconstruct her family history.

· In what ways will the book be used to meet those objectives? We will use the book as a jumping off point to discuss how

· What problems of style, tone, or theme or possi ble grounds for censorship exist in the book? This book is rife with things that could be objected to by censors: explicit sexuality, extreme violence, slavery, some might think that by giving these individuals a crazed yet fictional voice puts America in a bad light. Also, some critics have commented that Morrison takes the dramatic license of her portrayal of slavery and infanticide too far.

· How does the teacher plan to meet those problems?

I plan to introduce the text as a neo ­slave narrative. “Neo” stands for

“new” and a slave narrative is a personal narrative told by a current or former slave about his or her life in bondage. I also plan to assign secondary sources

to help students situate their thinking around the content of the novel.

I will also discuss Modern Medea by Steven Weisenburger because his non ­

fiction description of the Margaret Garner case is the historical case that

Morrison’s text is based off of.

· Assuming that the objectives are met, how would students be different because of their reading of this book? Students will demonstrate an understanding of slavery’s psychological impact on mothers, how the slaves related to their bodies differently than whites saw them and the effect of the white gaze on the black psyche.

5) Describe your learning objectives. (What will your students do to show they hav e

achieved the desired outcome?)

After the end of three weeks:

We will have discussed :

A) Who is Toni Morrison? What are her characteristics as an author that make her


B) What are the psychological impacts we see of slavery in this fictional work?

C) How does this work compare to the non‐ fictional account?

D) Why did Toni Morrison choose to write in such a fragmented, non‐ linear way?

E) What is the importance of personal narrative?

F) Some other important books written in this genre.

G) How this book is applicable to questions students might face on the AP English

Lit exam.

Students will be able to:


Come their own form of personal narrative.


Discuss psychological impacts of slavery on national cons ciousness.


Locat e favorite passages in the text and discuss their significance.


Critique Morrison’s writing style.


Discuss themes of slavery and “telling one’s own story”


Design assessments that will g uide instruction and help you measure your


Da ily Assessments

Each day students will be give n a question from the question bank above. It is based on the levels for critical thinking given in Bloom’s Taxonomy. By answering these questions informally in short paragraph form, students will be slowly increasing their ability to think critically about the text and demonstrating that they actually have done the work.

7) Design your lesson plans in a manner that get your students ready to complete th e summative assessments. Include the handouts and homework for each lesson. You do not have to answer the study questions or complete other daily assignments unless they are part of your summative assessment.

8) Include examples of the work you wish your students to produce at the end of the unit. If you decide to give a test, please provide an answer key.

Suggested Comparative Reading

Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye: a Novel . New York: Vintage International, 2007.

Stockett, Kathryn. The Help. New York , NY: Berkley, 2011.

"Toni Morrison ‐ Biography". 19 Dec 2011‐

bio.htm l

Methods of Inquiry

Stage One — Desired Results :

The AP English Literature website gives some guidelines for what kind of books should be taught to prepare high school students to take the AP English Literature Test. This three ­week unit will be reading and writing intensive. Since Beloved is a difficult narrative to follow, students will be required to read it nightly and we will break it up into parts for discussion. We will begin the reading together in class and discuss how to approach the te xt before they actually read it.

Each week: there will be two response questions that they will be required to respond to in a 1 ­2 paragraph response.

Each day we will approach the lesson with the following questions from Bloom’s Taxonomy:

Level 1­Knowledge:

What is slavery? When did Beloved’s story supposedly happen? Why did the Civil War occur?

Level 2­Comprehension:

How would you compare Steven Weisenbu rger’s Modern Medea to Toni Morrison’s Beloved? Why might we examine them together?

How would you solve the mystery of Morrison’s fragmented narrative using what you’ve learned of the Margaret Garner case?

Level 3­Application:

How would you show your understanding of Denver’s isolation? Contrast Baby Su ggs' personality and Sethe’s personality.

Level 4­ Analysis:

If you were to take part in Baby Suggs ’ service (87 ­88) — which body part would you value the most? What is the function of the physical performance of freedom?

What is the relationship b etween what happened to Sethe and how Baby Suggs sees “those white things”?

What ideas and/or experiences with white people justify Baby Suggs ’ statement that “ There is no bad luck in the world but whitefolks” (89)?

Level 5­ Evaluation:

Assess the value of being able to tell your own story… How would you justify what Sethe did to protect her children?

AP Standards


The course should include intensive study of representative works from various genres and periods, concentrating on works of recognized literary merit. The works chosen should invite and gratify rereading. Reading in an AP course should be both wide and deep. This reading necessarily builds upon the reading done in previous English courses. These courses should include the in-depth reading of texts drawn from multiple genres, periods, and cultures. In their AP course, students should also read works from several genres and periods -- from the sixteenth to the twenty-first century -- but, more importantly, they should get to know a few works well. They should read deliberately and thoroughly, taking time to understand a work's complexity, to absorb its richness of meaning, and to analyze how that meaning is embodied in literary form. In addition to considering a work's literary artistry, students should consider the social and historical values it reflects and embodies. Careful attention to both textual detail and historical context should provide a foundation for interpretation, whatever critical perspectives are brought to bear on the literary works studied.


Such close reading involves the experience of literature, the interpretation of literature, and the evaluation of literature. All these aspects of reading are important for an AP course in English Literature and Composition, and each corresponds to an approach to writing about literary works. Writing to understand a literary work may involve writing response and reaction papers along with annotation, free writing, and keeping some form of a reading journal. Writing to explain a literary work involves analysis and interpretation, and may include writing brief focused analyses on aspects of language and structure. Writing to evaluate a literary work involves making and explaining judgments about its artistry and exploring its underlying social and cultural values through analysis, interpretation, and argument. Writing should be an integral part of the AP English Literature and Composition course, for the AP Examination is weighted toward student writing about literature. Writing assignments should focus on the critical analysis of literature and should include expository, analytical, and argumentative essays. Although critical analysis should make up the bulk of student writing for the course, well-constructed creative writing assignments may help students see from the inside how literature is written. The goal of both types of writing assignments is to increase students' ability to explain clearly, cogently, even elegantly, what they understand about literary works and why they interpret them as they do. Writing instruction should include attention to developing and organizing ideas in clear, coherent, and persuasive language; a study of the elements of style; and attention to precision and correctness as necessary. Throughout the course, emphasis should be placed on helping students develop stylistic maturity, which, for AP English, is characterized by the following:

Wide-ranging vocabulary used with denotative accuracy and connotative resourcefulness

A variety of sentence structures, including appropriate use of subordinate and coordinate constructions

A logical organization, enhanced by specific techniques of coherence such as repetition, transitions, and emphasis

A balance of generalization with specific illustrative detail

An effective use of rhetoric, including controlling tone, maintaining a consistent voice, and achieving emphasis through parallelism and antithesis It is important to distinguish among the different kinds of writing produced in an AP English Literature and Composition course. Any college-level course in which serious literature is read and studied should include numerous opportunities for students to write. Some of this writing should be informal and exploratory, allowing students to discover what they think in the process of writing about their reading. Some of the course writing should involve research, perhaps negotiating differing critical perspectives. Much writing should involve extended discourse in which students can develop an argument or present an analysis at length. In addition, some writing assignments should encourage students to write effectively under the time constraints they encounter on essay examinations in college courses in many disciplines, including English.

Laying the Foundation: Building Academic Excellence

Some of the concepts in this lesson plan are derived from and their handout on AP English Literature and Composition— Prose Analysis.

Toni Morrison uses rhetorical fragments often in her novels. Teaching that use of grammar will be helpful to students reading her work for the first time.

Students will learn to produce analysis of imaginative literature.

Teaching Racially Sensitive Literature: A Teacher’s Guide

Collect both visual and documentary material, and, if possible, arrange field trips.

Prepare students for reading the text — challenged language, situations, stereotypes, settings, and stylistic and literary devices.

Be prepared to facilitate close r eadings of text.

Create substantive writing activities throughout the reading.

Create a debate ‐ research activity in which students divide into groups to assess the pros and cons of reading a particular text.

Encourage students to contact the autho r for an interview, when possible, or to conduct research into letters, notes, journals, diaries, and interviews by the author.

Be very cautious about showing films based on the text.

Do not encourage reading aloud of sensitive texts.

Encourage stu dents to journal throughout the reading and class activities. Do read and comment on the entries.

Encourage class discussions, facilitated and guided by you, but do not assume students of color are repositories of experience for each concept or idea exp ressed in the text.

Assign mini ‐ research activities — both group and individual — to be reported to the class.

Invite speakers to class — in class or via telephone conference or video conference. Some may agree to come pro bono.

Invite students to condu ct interviews of scholars, other teachers, families, etc. The following list recommends consideration of each point before teaching any piece of literature that may be deemed racially sensitive.

by Jocelyn A. Chadwick, Discovery Education

X High School

Movie/Video Permission Form

Request Date: XX/XX/XXXX_

Teacher Name: Miss Jaime Estrada

Name of Movie/Video: Beloved

Rating on Movie/Video: R

Reason for showing the Movie/Video: Oprah’s version of the movie is very useful for discussing the book. It is helpful for the student to see a cinematic interpretation of the text they are reading. Since this is a particularly difficult text to read due to theme, content, and narrative structure—I will be showing clips of it periodically through the course of the novel as it is applicable to that day’s reading.

Date of viewing:

Teacher Signature: Jaime Marie Estrada

Student Name:

Parent/Guardian Approval:

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a supplemental handout I would consider presenting

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a supplemental handout I would consider

presenting to the class as a way to consider how freed and runaway slaves struggled

to access their humanity in a new enviro nment and state of mind. Sometimes,

depending on their masters’, they barely ever reached their physiological needs. As

a class, we would look at how Beloved represents blacks and whites in search of

self‐ actualization. Maslow’s argument is that the base h uman needs must be met

first before one can be aware of desires driven by the higher order needs.

Ask students if they agree or disagree with this analysis of human behavior.

Perhaps, if a relationship is established, you can bring in your school’s AP

Psychology teacher to teach with you on this day, schedules permitting. A guest

lecturer— if you will. This conversation would be incorporated somewhere along

the way when I felt like the class readings, textual analysis and written responses

had led to a proper place to introduce this secondary source.

Morrison’s book is as much about psychology as it is about humanity. One

should do the Margaret Garner case justice and discuss the mental perturbations

caused by slavery. I would avoid the lingo of clinical psychology and stick to

generally understood terms like “trauma” and the terms presented in the hierarchy

above. In relation to Morrison’s work, i t is important to stress not just how

damaging slavery was but the rhetoric of paternalism and pro ‐ slavery arguments.

There are many variations in how the institution of slavery is and was enacted.

There were cruel masters and “humane” masters.

Morrison depicted this dichotomy of good vs. bad masters in her comparison

of the fictional Garners who owned Sethe and Paul D at Sweet Home and the

“Schoolteacher”. This could be one jumping off point into the sweet abandon of deep

intellectual and riveting discussion for your students. Don’t not provide them with

the context because it might be controversial, rather stri ve to present it in a way

that addresses multiple sides of the same issue.

Another framework to use this supplemental piece would be to have a

comparison discussion of Amy Denver and Sethe. What are their needs and goals?

What drives them? What makes Amy Denver similar to the other whites depicted in

the novel? What makes her different? Denver is named after Amy Denver, so even

though Amy’s appearance in the plot is short — her influence pervades the text. How

does Morrison complicate ideas of whiteness and blackness with class?

Backwards by Design: Final Assessment

The students’ final assessment after this novel will be in two parts. The first part will be to write a short epilogue explaining what happens to one of the characters , 1 ­2 pages . Students are asked to creatively agree with or contradict Morrison’s epilogue which thought ­provokingly states that this is “not a story to pass on” and write an epilogue for Sethe, Paul D, Denver or Beloved.

They will tell use 3 rd person narrati on to explain what happens to their chosen character psychologically after Sethe says “Me? Me?” What kind of ending do you imagine? What happens after the disappearance of the ghost?

If they write about Sethe or Paul D: What does Paul D mean when he says “You your best thing, Sethe. You are.” (173)?

The second part will be a 1 ­2 page paper explicating how they constructed their epilogue and explaining how their ending to the story is built off of close readings of the text. This 1 ­2 page paper will be hand ­written and they will be asked to do it in class with only their copy of Beloved as a guide. They must cite and closely analysis at least two different sections of the novel in support of their epilogue.

Day One: Who is Toni Morrison?

Reading Assignment for tonight, Pages 1‐ 27

Do a short introduction of Morrison and her contributions to the literary world. Then, discuss how Beloved is a book that students will be using as a vehicle to learn to read critically, read for a diverse audience, question reasons that the novel might be controversial and form one’s own opinion on the thematic elements of the text that they can then use for the AP exam.


Born Chloe Anthony Wofford, in 1931 in Lorain (Ohio), the second of four children in a black working- class family. Displayed an early interest in literature. Studied humanities at Howard and Cornell Universities, followed by an academic career at Texas Southern University, Howard University, Yale, and since 1989, a chair at Princeton University. She has also worked as an editor for Random House, a critic, and given numerous public lectures, specializing in African-American literature. She made her debut as a novelist in 1970, soon gaining the attention of both critics and a wider audience for her epic power, unerring ear for dialogue, and her poetically-charged and richly-expressive depictions of Black America. A member since 1981 of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she has been awarded a number of literary distinctions, among them the Pulitzer Prize in 1988.

From Nobel Lectures, Literature 1991-1995, Editor Sture Allén, World Scientific Publishing Co., Singapore, 1997

This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and first published in the book series Les Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished in Nobel Lectures. To cite this document, always state the source as shown above.

Day 1: Students write response to initial Level 1 – Knowledge questi ons IN CLASS. This exercise gives the teacher an idea of how student might approach the text.

“Students, please take out a sheet of paper and address the following question in a free ­write that will be approximately 1 ­2 paragraphs. You have 10 minutes.”

In­class question: What is slavery?

Sample student response:

From my understanding, slavery in the US was when Africans were brought across the middle passage to serve as unpaid and often maltreated workers in the South. Until the Civil War, all blacks were slaves and lived in segregated neighborhoods. Their family units were often separated for profit and it had a negative impact on the children. Until the civil rights movement, they were not treated as equals.

Discussion Questions:

These questions should be addressed during the discussion about Margaret Garner, Toni Morrison, the Beloved novel and Steven Weisenbu rger’s non‐ fiction account of the trial. Whether the teacher chooses to do this in a round table discussion, a lecture with Q&A or using Socratic method is up to him or her.

Who is Toni Morrison? Why is Beloved important? What is the thematic content about? What is a neo ­slave narrative? Short description of Steven Weisenburger’s Modern Medea and the actual Margaret Garner court case.

Day Two: Pleasing Denver

Reading Assignment for tonight, pages 28‐ 49

“It began as a little girl’s houseplay, but as her desires changed, so did the play. Quiet, primate and completely secret except for the noisome cologne signal that thrilled the rabbits before it confused them. First a playroom (where the silence was softer), then a refuge (from her brothers’ fright), soon the place became the point. In that bower, closed off from the hurt of the hurt world, De nver’s imagination produced its own hunger and its own food, which she badly needed because loneliness wore her out. Wore her out. Veiled and protected by the live green walls, she felt ripe and clear, and salvation was as easy as a wish ” (28‐ 29)

Imagery and Symbolism: The Emerald Bower

Cl ass begins with a discussion of the previous days questions. Assignments: F rom now on, on certain days, question prompts will be handed out at the end of class and students are expected to read and respond at home, having them ready for the beginning of t he next day’s class.

To start class:

Read quote aloud to class. Do an example close reading of the beginning of tonig ht’s reading to get them started by discussing the meaning of the emerald bower.

AP SKILLS: This will help them learn to close read s hort passages they may or may not have seen before on the AP English test.

Topic: Identity and the power of telling one’s own story. Denver feels isolated because physically. She is isolated in 124. “124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom. The women i n the house knew it and so did the children.” (1)

Practice close reading the first few lines of the first chapter with the first two pages of tonight’s reading.

Outcome: After teacher‐ led close reading and a discussion of the symbolism of the emerald bower, students will be lead to understand how important connecting scenes and images are when reading a novel with such a disjointed narrative.

Discuss the psychological isolation of not knowing your life story and who your family is.

Take home questi on:

Paragraph One: What do you understand so far having read the first 49 pages of Beloved?

Paragraph Two: How would you solve the mystery of Morrison’s fragmented narrative using what you’ve learned of the Margaret Garner case (the prologue to Steven We isenburger’s Modern Medea?)

(1 ­2 paragraphs , type answers on Microsoft Word and use MLA citation for references to the text and the header )

Reminder, students were assigned this before the Beloved unit started:

Introduction: Students will be asked at th e end of the preceding unit to prepare for Beloved by reading the prologue to Steven Weisenburger’s Modern Medea before they read the first Morrison reading assignment.

Sample Close Reading Assignment

Student X

Ms. Estrada


English 12


November 20XX

When I read the first few chapters of Beloved, I was not exactly sure

what was happening. There were a couple of things I noticed right

away, the house called 124 is haunted. Something really, really bad

happened there. Denver, the only child left obsessively thinks of her

mom’s past and tries to figure out what happened to her. The book is

loosely based off of the Margaret Garner case (Weisenburger 10). Yet, it

seems that this book is more about capturing pain and loss of memory.

Denver is so lonely and isolated that she hides in the woods behind 124

and that is the only place she feels secure. Grandma Baby Suggs dies

obsessed with colors. Then, the house is completely empty except for

Sethe, Denver and a spirit. One day, Paul D shows up. He seems to be an

important character from Sethe’s past. He decides to stay and he

orders the baby’s ghost to leave the house.

Morrison is using imagination and a sense of haunting to encase a

painful, historical infanticide. So far, the characters in this book are a

mess. Sethe seems broken beyond repair. Denver seems to be the

character that most of the plot will turn around. I don’t remember

much mention of Margaret Garner’s other children in the Modern Medea

account but we only read the prologue and it seemed that she had three

other children.

Day Three : “Rememories” — Memory and History in Beloved

Right after Denver remembers the story her mother told her about her birth… She asks Sethe what she was praying about. Sethe says she was praying about time.

In class assignment, do a close reading of the following passage:

“I was talking about time. It’s so hard for me to believe in it. Some things go. Pass on. Some things just stay. I used to think it was my rememory. You know. Some things you forget. Other things you never do. But it’s not. Places, places are still there. If a house burns down, it’s gone, but the place — the picture of it — stays, and not just in my rememory, but out there, in the world. What I remember is a picture floating around out there outside my head. I mean, even if I don’t think it, even if I die, the picture of what I did, or knew, or saw is still out there. Right in the place where it happened.” (35‐ 36)

In­class questions:

When did Beloved’s story supposedly happen?

What is your understanding of why the civil war occurred?

Why might it be important to talk about what happened to ex ­slaves AFTER the civil war?

Day Four : The Building, 124 – A Haunted House and the Physical Arrival of the Ghost

Reading Assignment for tonight, pages 50‐ 73 Teaching Point: Space is used as a place to contain pain, memory and history. Medium: Mini ‐ lesson in reading film against primary text.

Beloved arrives at 124. Today will be a class discussion of 124 as a space and how it all ows for the story of a ghost ­haunting to be told. This is a free ­ flowing discussion day. There is time to address students’ confusion surrounding the plot and etc…

This day — we will also watch the first clip from the movie. Starting at 31:35. This is the scene where Beloved rises out of the water and walks to the carnival ground surrounded by buzzing.

What do you think of this film’s interpre tation of Beloved’s physical appearance? What do the flies mean? Why is it she can barely walk and talk?

Use guid elines from Jim Burke’s An English Teacher’s Companion to aid with teaching film clips.

Discuss how directors, actors and screenwriters’ p ortrayals of the text change it s performance.

Day Five: Character Mapping and Slavery as a Generational

E xperience

Reading assignment, pages 74 ‐ 106 This discussion will continue onto Monday !

Film clip: 49:00 – 52:49 Sethe is doing Denver’s hair and Beloved knows just the right questions which reveal Sethe’s past. The story leads to brand on Sethe’s mother’s chest, which is the only thing Sethe remembers of her mother except that she is hung .

You’re not going to tell you’re class this right away but the point of showing this clip is to show how disjointed and terrorized the slaves were pre‐ Civil War.

Introductory questions: Thinking about film portrayal — what language are they speaking when Sethe’s mother is hung? It’s not clear French. It could be some sort of Creole. Does this place Sethe’s ancestry in anyway? Why is this important? Why would have the filmm aker’s been so careful to include this variation of the language for this particular scene? What do you make of the torture devices?

Recap of last class’ text and opening discussion questions for today :

­What is Denver and Beloved’s relationship like?

­Why does Denver need Beloved? Does she complete her in some way?

­How do Beloved’s poignant questions to Sethe help Denver get to know her mother better?

Show clip of Paul D asking Beloved where her people are — corresponds with page 65. (55:00)

Questio ns about origin take up a lot of the book and the film. Individual identity is very mixed up with the heritage that slavery as an institution has left them with. Most of the characters are struggling through a reconstruction of family history and personal identity, since as slaves, they often weren’t allowed much understanding of either.


Finish Part I – 118 ­165.

Sections: 118 ­125: Beloved and Denver play “hide and go seek” (we will read this aloud in class on Monday)

12 6 ­ The Power of Womanhood and Paul D’s definit ion of masculinity:

Key Quote :

“No lazy, stray pup of a woman could turn him around, make him doubt himself, wonder, plead or confess” (129).

EXTRA CREDIT: If you so desire, write a short paragraph reflection on the meaning of this quote in its context. (This type of extra credit is meant to encourage students to disengage with things like Sparknotes and engage with texts on a very close and personal level.)

Sample Extra Credit Response:

Paul D maximizes any sense of masculinity he has left by blaming everything on Beloved while simultaneously saying that he is stronger than her. By equating her to a “lazy, stray pup of a woman” he takes away her humanity and reduces her to animalistic terms. This action mirrors what the white schoolteacher does to Paul D by making him wear horrible torture devices. Paul D is so emotionally distraught from his experiences at slavery that he needs to feel dominance over other beings, in this case—a woman, in order to feel human.

Weekend take ‐ home reading assignment :


Date: September 13, 1987, Sunday, Late City Final Edition Section 7; Page 1, Column 3; Book Review Desk Byline: By MARGARET ATWOOD; Margaret Atwood is the author of ''The Handmaid's Tale,'' ''Bluebeard's Egg'' and the forthcoming ''Selected Poems II.'' Lead: LEAD: BELOVED By Toni Morrison. 275 pp. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.



BELOVED By Toni Morrison. 275 pp. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. $18.95. ''BELOVED'' is Toni Morrison's fifth novel, and another triumph. Indeed, Ms. Morrison's versatility and technical and emotional range appear to know no bounds. If there were any doubts about her stature as a pre-eminent American novelist, of her own or any other generation, ''Beloved'' will put them to rest. In three words or less, it's a hair-raiser. In ''Beloved,'' Ms. Morrison turns away from the contemporary scene that has been her concern of late. This new novel is set after the end of the Civil War, during the period of so-called Reconstruction, when a great deal of random violence was let loose upon blacks, both the slaves freed by Emancipation and others who had been given or had bought their freedom earlier. But there are flashbacks to a more distant period, when slavery was still a going concern in the South and the seeds for the bizarre and calamitous events of the novel were sown. The setting is similarly divided: the countryside near Cincinnati, where the central characters have ended up, and a slave-holding plantation in Kentucky, ironically named Sweet Home, from which they fled 18 years before the novel opens. There are many stories and voices in this novel, but the central one belongs to Sethe, a woman in her mid- 30's, who is living in an Ohio farmhouse with her daughter, Denver, and her mother-in-law Baby Suggs. ''Beloved'' is such a unified novel that it's difficult to discuss it without giving away the plot, but it must be said at the outset that it is, among other things, a ghost story, for the farmhouse is also home to a sad, malicious and angry ghost, the spirit of Sethe's baby daughter, who had her throat cut under appalling circumstances 18 years before, when she was 2. We never know this child's full name, but we - and Sethe - think of her as Beloved, because that is what is on her tombstone. Sethe wanted ''Dearly Beloved,'' from the funeral service, but had only enough strength to pay for one word. Payment was 10 minutes of sex with the tombstone engraver. This act, which is recounted early in the novel, is a keynote for the whole book: in the world of slavery and poverty, where human beings are merchandise, everything has its price, and price is tyrannical. ''Who would have thought that a little old baby could harbor so much rage?,'' Sethe thinks, but it does; breaking mirrors, making tiny handprints in cake icing, smashing dishes and manifesting itself in pools of blood-red light. As the novel opens, the ghost is in full possession of the house, having driven away Sethe's two young sons. Old Baby Suggs, after a lifetime of slavery and a brief respite of freedom - purchased for her by the Sunday labor of her son Halle, Sethe's husband -has given up and died. Sethe lives with her memories, almost all of them bad. Denver, her teen-age daughter, courts the baby ghost because, since her family has been ostracized by the neighbors, she doesn't have anyone else to play with. The supernatural element is treated, not in an ''Amityville Horror,'' watch-me-make-your-flesh-creep mode, but with magnificent practicality, like the ghost of Catherine Earnshaw in ''Wuthering Heights.'' All the main characters in the book believe in ghosts, so it's merely natural for this one to be there. As Baby Suggs says, ''Not a house in the country ain't packed to its rafters with some dead Negro's grief. We lucky this ghost is a baby. My husband's spirit was to come back in here? or yours? Don't talk to me. You lucky.'' In fact, Sethe would rather have the ghost there than not there. It is, after all, her adored child, and any sign of it is better, for her, than nothing. This grotesque domestic equilibrium is disturbed by the arrival of Paul D., one of the ''Sweet Home men'' from Sethe's past. The Sweet Home men were the male slaves of the establishment. Their owner, Mr. Garner, is no Simon Legree; instead he's a best-case slave-holder, treating his ''property'' well, trusting them, allowing them choice in the running of his small plantation, and calling them ''men'' in defiance of the neighbors, who want all male blacks to be called ''boys.'' But Mr. Garner dies, and weak, sickly Mrs.

Garner brings in her handiest male relative, who is known as ''the schoolteacher.'' This Goebbels-like paragon combines viciousness with intellectual pretensions; he's a sort of master-race proponent who measures the heads of the slaves and tabulates the results to demonstrate that they are more like animals than people. Accompanying him are his two sadistic and repulsive nephews. From there it's all downhill at Sweet Home, as the slaves try to escape, go crazy or are murdered. Sethe, in a trek that makes the ice-floe scene in ''Uncle Tom's Cabin'' look like a stroll around the block, gets out, just barely; her husband, Halle, doesn't. Paul D. does, but has some very unpleasant adventures along the way, including a literally nauseating sojourn in a 19th-century Georgia chain gang. THROUGH the different voices and memories of the book, including that of Sethe's mother, a survivor of the infamous slave-ship crossing, we experience American slavery as it was lived by those who were its objects of exchange, both at its best - which wasn't very good - and at its worst, which was as bad as can be imagined. Above all, it is seen as one of the most viciously antifamily institutions human beings have ever devised. The slaves are motherless, fatherless, deprived of their mates, their children, their kin. It is a world in which people suddenly vanish and are never seen again, not through accident or covert operation or terrorism, but as a matter of everyday legal policy. Slavery is also presented to us as a paradigm of how most people behave when they are given absolute power over other people. The first effect, of course, is that they start believing in their own superiority and justifying their actions by it. The second effect is that they make a cult of the inferiority of those they subjugate. It's no coincidence that the first of the deadly sins, from which all the others were supposed to stem, is Pride, a sin of which Sethe is, incidentally, also accused. In a novel that abounds in black bodies - headless, hanging from trees, frying to a crisp, locked in woodsheds for purposes of rape, or floating downstream drowned - it isn't surprising that the ''whitepeople,'' especially the men, don't come off too well. Horrified black children see whites as men ''without skin.'' Sethe thinks of them as having ''mossy teeth'' and is ready, if necessary, to bite off their faces, and worse, to avoid further mossy-toothed outrages. There are a few whites who behave with something approaching decency. There's Amy, the young runaway indentured servant who helps Sethe in childbirth during her flight to freedom, and incidentally reminds the reader that the 19th century, with its child labor, wage slavery and widespread and accepted domestic violence, wasn't tough only for blacks, but for all but the most privileged whites as well. There are also the abolitionists who help Baby Suggs find a house and a job after she is freed. But even the decency of these ''good'' whitepeople has a grudging side to it, and even they have trouble seeing the people they are helping as full-fledged people, though to show them as totally free of their xenophobia and sense of superiority might well have been anachronistic. Toni Morrison is careful not to make all the whites awful and all the blacks wonderful. Sethe's black neighbors, for instance, have their own envy and scapegoating tendencies to answer for, and Paul D., though much kinder than, for instance, the woman-bashers of Alice Walker's novel ''The Color Purple,'' has his own limitations and flaws. But then, considering what he's been through, it's a wonder he isn't a mass murderer. If anything, he's a little too huggable, under the circumstances. Back in the present tense, in chapter one, Paul D. and Sethe make an attempt to establish a ''real'' family, whereupon the baby ghost, feeling excluded, goes berserk, but is driven out by Paul D.'s stronger will. So it appears. But then, along comes a strange, beautiful, real flesh-and-blood young woman, about 20 years old, who can't seem to remember where she comes from, who talks like a young child, who has an odd, raspy voice and no lines on her hands, who takes an intense, devouring interest in Sethe, and who says her name is Beloved. Students of the supernatural will admire the way this twist is handled. Ms. Morrison blends a knowledge of folklore - for instance, in many traditions, the dead cannot return from the grave unless called, and it's the passions of the living that keep them alive - with a highly original treatment. The reader is kept guessing; there's a lot more to Beloved than any one character can see, and she manages to be many things to several people. She is a catalyst for revelations as well as self-revelations; through her we come to know not only how, but why, the original child Beloved was killed. And through her also Sethe achieves, finally, her own form of self-exorcism, her own self-accepting peace. ''Beloved'' is written in an antiminimalist prose that is by turns rich, graceful, eccentric, rough, lyrical, sinuous, colloquial and very much to the point. Here, for instance, is Sethe remembering Sweet Home:

suddenly there was Sweet Home rolling, rolling, rolling out before her eyes, and although there was not a leaf on that farm that did not want to make her scream, it rolled itself out before her in shameless beauty. It never looked as terrible as it was and it made her wonder if hell was a pretty place too. Fire and brimstone all right, but hidden in lacy groves. Boys hanging from the most beautiful sycamores in the world. It shamed her - remembering the wonderful soughing trees rather than the boys. Try as she might to make it otherwise, the sycamores beat out the children every time and she could not forgive her memory for that.''

In this book, the other world exists and magic works, and the prose is up to it. If you can believe page one - and Ms. Morrison's verbal authority compels belief - you're hooked on the rest of the book. THE epigraph to ''Beloved'' is from the Bible, Romans 9:25: ''I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.'' Taken by itself, this might seem to favor doubt about, for instance, the extent to which Beloved was really loved, or the extent to which Sethe herself was rejected by her own community. But there is more to it than that. The passage is from a chapter in which the Apostle Paul ponders, Job-like, the ways of God toward humanity, in particular the evils and inequities visible everywhere on the earth. Paul goes on to talk about the fact that the Gentiles, hitherto despised and outcast, have now been redefined as acceptable. The passage proclaims, not rejection, but reconciliation and hope. It continues: ''And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.'' Toni Morrison is too smart, and too much of a writer, not to have intended this context. Here, if anywhere, is her own comment on the goings-on in her novel, her final response to the measuring and dividing and excluding ''schoolteachers'' of this world. An epigraph to a book is like a key signature in music, and ''Beloved'' is written in major. 'OTHER PEOPLE WENT CRAZY, WHY COULDN'T SHE?' Sethe opened the front door and sat down on the porch steps. The day had gone blue without its sun, but she could still make out the black silhouettes of trees in the meadow beyond. She shook her head from side to side, resigned to her rebellious brain. Why was there nothing it refused? No misery, no regret, no hateful picture too rotten to accept? Like a greedy child it snatched up everything. Just once, could it say, No thank you? I just ate and can't hold another bite? I am full God damn it of two boys with mossy teeth, one sucking on my breast the other holding me down, their book-reading teacher watching and writing it up. I am still full of that, God damn it, I can't go back and add more. Add my husband to it, watching, above me in the loft - hiding close by - the one place he thought no one would look for him, looking down on what I couldn't look at at all. And not stopping them - looking and letting it happen. But my greedy brain says, Oh thanks, I'd love more - so I add more. And no sooner than I do, there is no stopping. There is also my husband squatting by the churn smearing the butter as well as its clabber all over his face because the milk

they took is on his

Paul D saw him and could not save or comfort him because the iron bit was in his mouth, then there is still more that Paul D could tell me and my brain would go right ahead and take it and never say, No thank you. I don't want to know or have to remember that. I have other things to do: worry, for example, about tomorrow, about Denver, about Beloved, about age and sickness not to speak of love. But her brain was not interested in the future. Loaded with the past and hungry for more, it left her no room

to imagine, let alone plan for, the next

brains stopped, turned around and went on to something new, which is what must have happened to Halle. And how sweet that would have been. From ''Beloved.''

And if he was that broken then, then he is also and certainly dead now. And if

Other people went crazy, why couldn't she? Other people's

New York Times Book Review Response Questions

How has reading this changed your perspective on the text?

Reading Margaret Atwood’s review of Beloved gave me a better understanding of the plot as well as its critical reception. I can see how people might have reacted negatively to Morrison’s telling of a slave narrative. I thin that it was necessary that Margaret Garner’s story be told and I am glad we were assigned this secondary reading.

Would you say that this book review is portra ying Morrison in a positive or negative light?

I think Atwood is portraying Morrison’s work in a positive light without

being overly enthusiastic about it.

Does reading this review make you want to learn more about Toni Morrison or the author of the review, Margaret Atwood? Why?

I am curious as to Atwood’s background and what makes her qualified

to write this review. I’m also more interested in Morrison as a writer.

Second Week

Day Six : Slave Narratives , Community and Embodiment

Tonight’s readi ng assignment: 118 ­125 This day is meant to be a refresher back into the class after the weekend and get students’ mind back on the text.

T his day continues from Friday with a slightly different focus. The teacher will discuss the difference between tradi tional 19 th century slave narratives (Harriet Jacobs and Frederick Douglass) and the work Toni Morrison does with her neo ‐ slave narrative.

Bring the texts of Harriet Jacobs and Frederick Douglass into class and discuss their historical significance. Ask s tudents if they’ve learned about slave narratives before.

Talk about family and slavery:

Chalkboard/whiteboard Socratic method discussion:

Relationship between mother and daughter

Denver and Beloved 1:03 – Show clip of them at the bottom of the floor and Denver realizing it’s her sister’s ghost.

Paul D and Denver Quick class discussion: what do students perceive as the relationship between Paul D and Denver at this point in the text?

Baby Suggs and greater community

Show first scene of the preaching in the clearing. — Discuss the embodiment of black love. How is Baby Suggs suggesting that her community relate to their own body part s? Why?

Depending on the time left for discussion— students can either discuss this clip in class via the Socratic discussion method or they can write a short handwritten response to bring to class the next day. Students should be encouraged to take notes and record their response to the film while viewing it. What format the film critique takes is left to the discretion of the teacher.

Day Seven : What Does Beloved Want?

In­class review : 118 ­125 Reading for tonight, 125 ­135 (tomorrow we will discuss masculinity and femininity in the novel) Today, we’re going to read a short passage aloud together. By passing around the book, ea ch of us will rea d a paragraph in dramatic voice. After we’ve finished the passage, we will take a minute to absorb it and then we will discuss its implications.

Central text for discussion:

“It was lovely. Not to be stared at, not seen, but being pulled i nto view by the interested, uncritical eyes of other. Having her hair examined a part of her self, not as a material or a style. Having her lips, nose, chin caressed as they might be if she was were a moss rose a gardener paused to admire. Denver’s skin dissolved under that gaze and became soft and bright like the lisle that had its arm around her mother’s waist. She floated near but outside her own body, feeling vague and intense at the same time .” (118)

Up until this point, we know that Denver has been v ery lonely living in 124 by herself with her mother. How has Beloved’s arrival changed how she feels about herself?

Describe the tone of the speaker as she feels Beloved’s gaze. What is this dynamic showing us?

Read the rest of 118‐ 119… What is really go ing on between Beloved and Denver?

This is how Beloved makes Denver feel— what do you think Beloved feels? “At such times it seemed to be Beloved who needed something— wanted something”


Imagery: “Deep down in her wide black eyes, back behind the ex pressionlessness, was a palm held for a penny which Denver would gladly give her” (118).

Day Eight : Representations of Femininity and Masculinity in the Novel

In ‐ class review— 125‐ 135. Tonight’s reading assignment— pages 133‐ 165.

This week – it is r eally all about modeling the close reading of a short passage. On the AP test, students will be asked to identify literary devices and their use in works of fiction. In order to do this, their close reading skills should be very strong. This is why it is n ecessary to model close reading what may seem like ad nauseu m in the classroom setting:

“ A truth that waved like a scarecrow in the rye: they were only Sweet Home men at Sweet Home. One step off that ground and they were trespassers among the human race. Watchdogs without teeth; steer bulls without horns; gelded workhorses whose neigh and whinny could not be translated into a language that responsible humans spoke. ” (125)

How is this passage showing us what slavery has done to Paul D’s conception of mascu linity?

Beloved seems to have a hold on Paul D in a way that keeps him out of her way.

Why is Paul D so threatened by Beloved’s advances? Does she really have control over him?

Paul D feels guilty for what he’s done with Beloved, so he goes to tell Sethe . How does Sethe in voke gender norms when she says:

“Man, you make me like a girl, coming by to pick me up after work. Nobody ever did that before. You better watch out, I might start looking forward to it.” (127)

Paul D expresses his discomfort with his masculinity by telling Sethe that he is not a man and wants to make her pregnant.

What does this reveal about how Paul D’s life has effected his view of himself and how he carries himself when dealing with potential conflict?

He went to try to tell her what was happening at home with Beloved but when he went to say it her expression stopped him and instead he said, “I am not a man”


Instead of telling her that he’s cheating on her with her daughter, he tells her “I want you pregnant, Sethe. Would you do that for me?” (127)

“And, suddenly it was a solution: a way to hold onto her, to document his manhood and break out of the girl’s spell —all in one” ( 127)

“Resolve, he thought. That was all it took, and no motherless gal was going to break it up. No lazy, stray pup of a woman could turn him around, make him doubt himself, wonder, plead, or confess.” (129)

“Once before (and only once) Paul D had been grateful to a woman” (131).

Who are these people in this chapter? Are they slaves? Ex ‐ slaves? Freedmen and women…? What does their st atus as citizens have to do with how they view their sexuality? What is the narrator’s point of view?

Day Nine: The Paternalism Argument

Review 135‐ 166 Tonight’s reading 170‐ 199

Why does Sethe kill Belo ved? What was she afraid of? Would she have killed Denver too?

Think back to the argument that Steven Wei senburger’s prologue stated pro ­ slavery writers made about paternalism:

“To proslavery writers her deeds demonstrated that slaves were subhuman. Only a beast would kill its offspring, they reasoned so Margaret’s child ­murder proved the bond servant’s need for Southern slavery’s kindly paternal authority.” (Weisenburger 6)

How does Morrison’s story thus far converse with this idea of paternalism?

Today is a debate — so after a quick intro, the class will be numbered off and each will have to pick a side and defend it. One side will argue the side of paternalism and the other side will perform that of justifying Margaret Garner’s actions as heroic.

Class debriefing after.

Day Nine Homework: Short Textual Analysis and Example

Analyze the language in pages 148 ‐ 153 . How does Morrison lessen or romanticize what happened? Does Morrison’s account of the murder make it more humane?

2 ‐ 3 paragraphs.

Rather than seeming like a crazy murderess, Sethe seems like a mother who just loves her freedom and her children’s freedom more than anything in the world. Morrison starts the chapter off in the voice and head of a white slave-catcher, the way he views slaves, “a dead ni**** could be skinned for profit could not be skinned for profit and was not worth his own dead weight in coin” (148) is not sympathetic to the whiteman’s cause at all. Rather, the slave catchers come across as heartless.

After they discover that she has attempted to murder all her children and succeeded at murdering one, we are let back into the white man’s mind: “She was looking at him now, and if his other nephew could see that look he would learn the lesson for sure: you just can’t mishandle creatures and expect success” (150). Now, sethe is being compared to a “creature”. The white man’s perspective is that her craziness is due to mishandling. This implies that if she were handled a certain way, she would remain a passive slave, good for “at least ten breeding years” (149). In my eyes, after seeing how the white men think about and treat Sethe after she’s already murdered her children… it is easy to sympathize with her. She wants her children to be in a better place. By allowing the reader to access multiple dominating white male points of view—she authenticates Sethe’s fear and anguish. From the interaction between Baby Suggs and Sethe about feeding Denver, who is still alive, we know that Sethe is in shock. By letting Denver suck off the nipple that still has Beloved’s blood on it, Sethe is enacting the cycle of life and death. Morrison uses imagery and narration to bring the reader into an implicit understanding of Sethe’s pain and motivation for murder.

Day Ten : Life at 124 without m en and flashbacks to Sweet Home

Close read the ice skati ng section: 173 – 175

Repetition of “Nobody saw them falling”

What literary device is Morrison using in this section? What is she trying to accomplish? It seems that the women have a sense of freedom t hat Paul D restricted while he was there. There is now an awkward yet beautiful sense of sisterhood that is shown by the freedom of the women ice‐ skating .

Today’s in class exercise:

Students pick literary devices from their favorite passage and analyze how Morrison is using that literary device in the passage: 30 minutes.

This is a Socratic discussion. Since they just did a close reading over the weekend, this is the time to review literary devices with them and make sure they can perform the same task v erbally.

Weekend reading : 200 ‐ end of the novel.

Take freestyle notes on the end of the novel. Last weekend, you read a book review about Beloved. You are the critic now. You’re almost done with the novel and have formed your own opinion of Morrison’s prose.

You should reference the passages that most interested you, sparked a question, or any sort of emotional reaction. If you hated the ending, describe in your notes why you hated it. If you loved it, describe why you loved it. If you were indifferent, describe why you were indifferent. Your notes can be handwritten or typed up and they should be two – three pages long.

You will be expected to turn these in on Monday.

Third Week

Day Eleven: Whites , “the men with no skin”

Pa ges: 200‐ 235

This is the last week so it is really the time to make the most of in ‐ class discussion, address questions that students may have about the final projects and

In this section, the reader is led into the minds of each of the characters. Some of the stories are sad, some are hopeful and some are completely broken. When we get to Beloved’s narrative it is completely broken down. This is the narrative style that Morrison is famous for.

What rhetorical fragments are being used in this station?

Think about this in terms of the next chapter, which seems to be Sethe’s take on her connection with Beloved.

These two creatures are intertwined emotionally and they have an intellectual connection. Beloved tells a broken story and then Sethe clears up wha t Beloved actually meant to say.

FOCUS ON: Pages 200 ‐ 219, What is “the hot thing”?

Key words: Riffing, subversion, intertextuality

Finally, we get directly into the characters’ heads. The beginning of the first chapter in this section is “Beloved is my sister,” the next chapter is “I am Beloved and she is mine,” and the third chapter is “I am Beloved and she mine”. How do you see these as interrelated lines?

As a class, we will look at the Song of Solomon in the Bible — how is Morrison riffing off of thi s traditional text? How is she subverting it? ( 10 ­minute discussion)

What is with the disjunctive voice in the last chapter of this section (214 ­217)?

Day Twelve: 236 ‐ 264 — Delusion and Downfall

“124 was quiet. Denver, who thought she knew all about s ilence, was surprised to learn that hunger could do that: quiet you down and wear you out. Neither Sethe nor Beloved knew or cared about it one way or another. They were too busy rationing their strength to fight eachother. So it was she who had to step of f the edge of the world and die because if she didn’t, they all would” (239).

Beloved and Sethe get s so wrapped up in each other that Sethe loses her job. The merging of Sethe and Beloved moves from innocent to disturbing:

From: “At first they played toge ther. A whole month and Denver loved it. From the night they ice ‐ skated under a star ‐ loaded sky and drank sweet milk from by the stove, to the string puzzles Sethe did for them in afternoon light, and shadow pictures in the gloaming ” (240). –analyze the im agery in this section

To: “Then the mood changed and the arguments began. Slowly at first. A complaint from Beloved, an apology from Sethe….how could she have left her? And Sethe cried, saying she never did, or meant to— that she had to get them out, away… .That her plan was always that they would be together on the other side, forever. Beloved wasn’t interested. She said when she cried there was no one. That dead men lay on top of her. That she had nothing to eat. Ghosts without skin stuck their finders in her and said beloved in the day and bitch in the light. Sethe pleaded for forgiveness, counting, listing again and again her reasons: that Beloved was more important, meant more to her than her own life” (242).

It becomes up to Denver take care of them. This is the first time Denver exercises agency and leaves the front lawn. She goes to see Lady Jones and asks for a job.

Analyze how the domestic life of Sethe and the ghost creates an unhealthy atmosphere for both of them.

Sethe is obsessed with finding of forgiveness from her daughter. Will she ever really get it?

How do you see Ella’s character? Where does she derive her strength? How does she compare people? What is it about her past that enables her to get over what Sethe has done in order to help her with the haunting of Beloved?

Sample Close Reading of a Quote

Take ‐ Home assignment:

Closely read the following passage in relation to what happens in novel , 1 ‐ 2 paragraphs:

“That anybody white could take your whole self for anything that came to mind. Not just work, kill, or maim you, but dirty you. Dirty you so bad you couldn’t like yourself anymore. Dirty you so bad you forgot who you were and couldn’t think it up.”

Is this the lived experience of all the ex ‐ slaves in the novel? What about thei r children?

It seems that the verbs being used here “work,” “kill” and “maim” are all negative actions that are acted upon black slaves by white masters. But, the worst of all these verbs, surprisingly, over “kill” is the word:

“dirty”. There is an implication that if a white person dirties you, you become witless, ignorant and unable to function on a human level. This is the lived experience of both Sethe and Paul D—for awhile they float about their mutual worlds and cannot function on a “normal” level. Paul D describes the first time he stays somewhere with a woman as so life-changing that he makes love to her sheets rather than to her. The idea of being human enough to sleep in a bed overwhelms him and he swears never to leave. Sethe loses herself and her mind when Beloved comes back to “life” because her need to be forgiven and treated as a human being again is so great. Both of these characters are “dirtied” by their pasts as slaves to white slave owners and they spend the whole book trying to get clean.

Day Thirteen: Pages 263 ‐ 273, Discussing the End

Spend some time talking about literary devices and how Morrison uses them in the end of her novel. Begin to preview what the time d essay will comprise of.

Does Morrison leave her readers with hope? Talk about the poem that begins the chapter at page 263 and how the song about “bare feet and chamomile sap” is about Sethe and the scene from the very beginning of the book where she meets Paul D.

Paul D only returns to 124 after Beloved is gone. The scene before this one culminates in what seems like an exorcism of sorts. It is an exorcism powered by the black women of the community and Sethe’s own hallucination of seeing Mr. Bodwin as the schoolteacher.

Are Sethe and Paul D going to get back together?

Preview tomorrow’s epilogue assignment.

Day Fourteen : Creative Writing, the Epilogue

Think about the discussion about close reading. Read Morrison’s epilogue out ­ loud together. Students should begin work on own epilogues in class and then tak e them home to finish.

Write a short epilogue explaining what happens to one of the characters, 1 ­2 pages. Students are asked to creatively agree with or contradict Morrison’s epilogue which thought ­provokingly states that this is “not a story to pass on” and write an epilogue for Sethe, Paul D, Denver or Beloved.

They will tell use 3 rd person narration to explain what happens to their chosen character psychologically after Sethe says “Me? Me?” What kind of ending do you imagine? What happens after the dis appearance of the ghost?

If they write about Sethe or Paul D: What does Paul D mean when he says “You your best thing, Sethe. You are.” (173)?

Address the statement: “This is not a story to pass on.”

Morrison’s epilogue, as is much of her novel, is writt en from a bird’s eye view of a character. Talk with students about how they might begin their epilogue. Review forms of narration and how to set the tone and mood of a short creative piece.

Student Epilogue Sample

Student X

Miss Estrada AP English 12

XX December 20XX

Denver’s story is her own. She is not her mother. She is not her sister.

When the three of them were locked up in the house, at first, it

seemed like paradise. Ice-skating on the pond, braiding each other’s hair

and hanging ribbons all over the house seemed to Denver like the perfect

activities for a childhood she never had. However, as time went on… she

realized that she was not Beloved and Beloved was not her. They were

separate daughters, separate sisters and separate beings. Try as she did

to understand her sister—she realized that first she needed to

understand herself. She will not go back to the way things were.

Soon after that, Denver lost everything again. When the ladies from

the neighborhood came to chant and pray Beloved out of the house, she

just stood there and watched. Knowingly. It was time. She lost her

baby sister twice. This time, she had bonded with her as an equal, a

partner in the broken havoc of the world that was post-civil war

Cincinnati. Although they were different, they did share similar

experiences. However, amidst the loss of her sister and temporary loss

of her mother to insanity—she found self-actualization. She found a

purpose that was beyond the yard of 124 and she found the strength to

live for others and herself. She will not go back to the way things


Denver started working in Cincinnati and then she decided to get

more education. She’d always regretted the family guilt that caused her

to stop going to Lady Jones’ house to learn. When she was little, she

wondered if her mother was really a murderess like Nelson Lord had

implied. She walked around with that guilty question for years and she

had no solid proof until the ghost form of her sister came along. No

one would talk to her about it. So, she hid in the emerald bower. She

will not go back to the way things were.

Denver learned that working hard as a maid was helpful in the

way of money but that to make it somewhere in the world. To tell her

own story, she had to learn what the whitefolk knew. She had to learn

to speak their language, understand their papers and write her own

existence. One day, after Beloved had left and Paul D had moved back

into the house, she found his clipping depicting her mother as a

murderess. That mouth was so small, set so hard, and so angry. But,

she knew better now. Instead of sealing herself off in 124 as if that

were a safe haven, she continued to get dressed and walk off of that

ever looming front porch and out into the world. She lived not with a

murderess but rather a protector. Her mother’s love was too thick but

it was just the way she liked it. Knowledge was her power. The ability

to read, write and think for herself gave her a way to synthesize,

express and see clearly what had happened to her family. She is whole

now. Beloved’s is not a story to pass on. But Denver’s is. She will not

go back to the way things were.

Day Fifteen: Timed in ‐ class essay about Beloved

This prompt was handed out on Monday along with the prompt for the epilogue. They’ve had the week to prepare:

Write a 1 ­2 page paper explicating how you constructed your epilogue and explaining how your ending to the story is built off of close readings of the text. This 1 ­2 page paper will be hand ­written and you will be asked to do it in class with only your copy of Beloved as a guide for citing the text. Please prepare passages you’d like to talk about ahead of time. Yo u must cite and closely analyze at least two different sections of the novel in support of the creative work you’ ve done in your epilogue. You have 45 minutes to complete this exercise. You will come into class prepared and turn in your work at the end of the class session.

Student In ‐ Class Essay Sample

Student X

Miss Estrada

AP English 12

XX December 20XX

I chose to focus my epilogue on Denver, I did so because I found her

story most compelling. Throughout the book, Morrison gives the reader

an idea of Denver’s loneliness and isolation. In modern day terms, she’s

agoraphobic. She is afraid to leave the house and go into uncharted

territory. She is afraid of white men looking at her and touching her.

She’s afraid of existing.

Towards the middle of the text, Nelson Lord makes Denver feel bad

about her family identity. The reader is not given the exact question but

it is understood from the context that he asks Denver whether or not

her mom is a murderess. She stops attending Lady Jones’ informal

school and therefore cuts off her connection with the outside world

(102-103). Denver is portrayed as an intelligent and defensive girl. Nelson’s

question would not have been overwhelming for her had she been

prepared with the interpersonal tools and self-identity needed to rebuff

such a statement.

Rather, it is Nelson’s innocent tone that overpowers her and

makes her feel ashamed. The narrator tells us, “She was too scared to

ask her brothers or anyone else Nelson Lord’s question because certain

odd and terrifying feelings about her mother were collecting around the

thing that lept up inside her” (102). Morrison mixes imagery with

personification to show the conflict of how Denver is made to feel

about her identity. This place in Denver’s childhood marks the beginning

of her agoraphobia and clinging to the safety of the imagined unreal

inside her own home: “Meanwhile the monstrous and unmanageable

dreams about Sethe found release in the concentration Denver began to

fix on the baby ghost” (103). In this part of the narrative, Denver is

lost to the mysterious myths and realities of her family’s past.

However, in my epilogue—Denver has found hope and separation

from her past through education. When Beloved takes over the house

and Paul D has left, Denver discovers that it is up to her to support

their family’s most basic needs. She goes to Lady Jones, her only

previous connection in the outside world, and asks for help. Rather

than a job from Lady Jones, she gains food, connections and an

education: “At least once a week, she visited Lady Jones…She gave her a

book of Bible verse and listened while she mumbled words or fairly

shouted them. By June, Denver had read and memorized all fifty-two

pages—one for each week of the year” (250). From reading this passage,

it was clear to me that Denver needed an education and a connection

with the outside world in order to create and tell her own story.

Morrison’s warning that “this is not a story to pass on” seems to go

unheeded by Denver as she continues on in my epilogue to construct her

own identity. She will never go back to the way things were.

Primary text for this lesson plan:

Morrison, Toni. Beloved: a Novel. New York, NY: Plume, 1998. Print.

© Jaime Estrada, 2012