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On Polyhonic Narrative of Beloved by Toni Morrison

Author LiYanYan
Tutor XiChuanJin
School Yangtze University
Course Foreign Linguistics and Applied Linguistics
Keywords Beloved Great Dialogue Micro-dialogue Counterpoint Unfinalizability
CLC I712.074
Type Master's thesis
Year 2012
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Toni Morrison is one of the most famous American authors. She has already published eight novels and was awarded a Nobel Prize for literature in1993, who then became the first African American to get this high honor. Beloved is her fifth novel, which was first published in1987, and is considered as milestone of American literary history.This thesis mainly analyzes the polyphonic features of Beloved according to Bakhtin’s polyphonic narrative theory. It is Bakhtin who first introduced the concept of "polyphony" into literary theory from music. In Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics, he analyzes the dialogue characters, the counterpoint and Unfinalizablity of Dostoevsky’s novels. Furthermore,"polyphony" is one of the most important core words in Bakhtin’s articles. In polyphonic novel, the most important thing is not to launch the plots or narrate the character’s fate but to reveal the different independent consciousness that shares equal position and value. What it pursues is to put different people and consciousness on a same level, and then the world in it is a colorful stage on which people can express their own thoughts and feelings, and no one can interrupt them. Beloved is structured as a dialogue made up of a variety of different voices coexisting and competing to make meaning in the interaction between each other. In the novel Beloved, there are no chronological events. The past and present convert with each other without clear boundaries. The characters can’t link their fragment memories together. The variety of different voices intertwined together. Thus they compose a unique characteristic of polyphony.This thesis is divided into five chapters. The first chapter mainly introduces Toni Morrison and her novel Beloved as well as the research states in domestic and abroad, in which I also give a brief introduction to Bakhtin’s polyphonic narrative theories. The second chapter mainly analyzes dialogism in Beloved according to Bakhtin’s dialogical theory. In the novel, there is no overarching voice that is always above others. And all the characters have equal position even with the author and the readers. Through dialogue, they establish their relationship with others and the objective world. At the same time, through internal dialogue, they express their own consciousness and inner conflicts which can also be reflected from the interaction with other consciousness. Thus the dialogue in the novel is featured as diversity and complexity. In the third chapter, the counterpoint structure of Beloved is fully analyzed. In the novel, all the characters sharing equal positions coexist with each other independently. Their narration and reviews on the same event or person often echo or parallel with each other. These echoes and parallels form the typical counterpoint structure of the novel. Chapter four mainly discusses the unfinalizability of the plots and the major characters, which is one of the most important features of polyphonic novel. Finally, the last chapter is a conclusion of the whole thesis. By analyzing the dialogism, counterpoint and unfinalizability of the novel, we can say that Beloved is a typical and fantastic polyphonic novel.

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