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Memories of Beloved

The ending of Beloved addresses the theme of memories that is apparent throughout the rest of the novel. The phrase, “it was not a story to pass on,” is repeated twice and then again with a third slight variation of “this is not a story to pass on,” in the final section of the novel. This phrase is interesting given that the novel itself has done the deed of passing on this story to its readers. Beloved is filled with moments of passing on stories and looking back upon the past. However, the narrator of this section notes that although the characters may do this with all other stories of their pasts, no matter how painful, the story of Beloved is not one that should be repeated and shared to continue her memory. The narrator of this section notes that Sethe, Denver, and all the other people in the community reached a point where Beloved is barely remembered by even those that have interacted with her. They essentially forced out Beloved and her memory out of their minds. Beloved is “disremembered and unaccounted for, she cannot be lost because no one is looking for her.” It is interesting that the painful memories of slavery, assault, etc. were stories that Sethe passed on and recounted, but the story of her first daughter will be forever gone from her mind and the minds of others. 

Additionally, this section talks about Beloved’s lack of name and how, “everybody knew what she was called, but nobody anywhere knew her name.” It made it easier to forget her for those who knew less and less about her, so her lack of name made this even easier. This section is interesting for many reasons. It really ties together all the ideas surrounding memory and time throughout the novel, it finally addresses Beloved’s real name not being told, and it gives a feeling of closure for readers at the end of the story. 

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5 Comments

  1. Katherine Fell Katherine Fell

    I think you make very interesting points about the ways in which the people in the community reflect on Beloved after she is gone. What I thought was especially tragic as I was reading this was how many slaves were also “unaccounted for, because no one was looking for [them].” The institution of slavery was so damaging to people’s identities that there is no way for history to know how many were lost.

  2. Nicolette Romley Nicolette Romley

    Although Beloved herself seemed to be such a critical part of the story, you emphasis how it was more what Beloved represented that was impactful in the story rather than her physical self. Denver and Sethe will live on without Beloved, and it is better that way. They were finally able to move on from past traumas and start their lives again without the burden of the past in their way.

  3. Sara Messervey Sara Messervey

    I find your comment about closure interesting. I actually had the opposite experience. It felt almost pointless to hear this whole story just for it to end with the story itself being forgotten. It was like we were brought to bear witness to this whole devastating tale that is almost too complicated to explain, and then it is erased before we get the chance to finally make sense of it. It tampers with memory, like you point out.

  4. David Ataide David Ataide

    I liked how you addressed how they repeated the saying “it was not a story to pass on” because it seems to highlight all of these little stories from slavery that we will never know. While the overarching era of slavery and its impacts are known to history books, most stories about individual slaves will never be known as they have been forgotten by time. It seems like the repetition of these lines is Morrison’s way of showing that this will be another story forgotten in the future.

  5. Alexander Bogomolov Alexander Bogomolov

    Just as Sara did, I found your comment about “closure” interesting. I do think that there is a sense in “closure” in knowing that the characters have almost forgotten Beloved. For me, this represents that characters no longer constantly being held in a state of not having an identity, fighting to make peace with their pasts. I do not think that they will ever completely forget Beloved, but at least they have the space to find their identities and move forward.

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