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An Interpretation of the Gothic Elements in Toni Morrison’s Beloved

Author LiuZuoZuo
Tutor GuoJiDe
School Shandong University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords gothic genre trauma identity formation ethnic community
Type Master's thesis
Year 2008
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Since its publication, Beloved has been widely read and studied as one of the most famous classics of Toni Morrison. Morrison, as a black woman writer, is always concerned with African-American’s survival and the way out for them. This is a masterfully-written book that all the characters must deal with the past which is perpetually haunting them. The book has aroused widespread interests and appreciations. Therefore, there are a lot of readers and critics trying to read and study it from different perspectives. But mainly, the study areas are focused on "Changing of narrative point of view", "inner perspective of the characters," "language strategy", and "re-memory", "the relationship of language and power," and so on. But people seldom put enough attention to the Gothic elements in Beloved. Only Yang Ling, the professor of Hunan Normal University, mentioned "Female Gothic characteristics of Beloved" in Journal of Hotan Teachers College.Beloved uses the combination of reality and illusion, the abnormal sections of haunting ghost and the returning from the grave, and the twisted characters to make the book full of profound connotation and earthshaking power. Here, the thesis intends to find out the gothic elements in Beloved and how they are used to express the tragic living circumstances of the black people.Beloved is the truthful record of the physical and psychological damages of the slavery system. Although the slavery system has been abolished for years, the character like Sethe is still being haunted by the past memories as a slave. In order to save her children from suffering from the slavery system, Sethe kills her children and thus lives in the shadow of the event. Through the demonstration of the damages in identity formation and the trauma of the protagonists by slavery system, Morrison shows us the long-lasting destruction of the evil slavery system.Chapter One discusses the relationship between gothic style and the representation of gothic styles in the novel. The gothic style has been employed in many books by many white writers to explore the personal, physical impact of encounters with ghosts, along with their revelations of family secrets or other unspeakable discoveries. But Morrison finds there is a lack of context in the part of the black people. So, after being influenced by the gothic style and being enraged by the lack of context in the academic field, Morrison employs the gothic style to explore violence on the operation of subjective defined by possessing and a sense of identity that is conferred by the historical ownership of the slavery system.Chapter Two mainly deals with the effects of using the gothic genre in the novel. In Beloved, every major character, Sethe, Denver, Paul D, Beloved and Baby Suggs all suffer from trauma and the loss of personal identity. In the book, all the characters are undergoing some forms of haunting. The gothic style here works to help the protagonists to regain their identity and learn the way to handle with trauma. This is done through what has been suppressed returns, in the physical form of Beloved. This chapter will begin with Sethe and then continue to Denver.Chapter Three centers on the reasons for gothic usage in Beloved. This chapter will show us the personal reasons of Morrison, historical and cultural reasons of the black people and at last will illustrate the importance of ethnic community for black people. Beloved also explores how the protagonists are connected to their ethnic communities, the communal identity that their trauma has previously denied them. Morrison calls for her people to participate in community and enhance their senses of belonging to the community through the novel Beloved. She hopes black people should hold dear their history, culture and customs and try every means to be accepted and included into the American culture. Staying away from their own communities and trying blindly to get into the streams of white culture will eventually erase the culture of their own which Morrison does not want to see.At last, the thesis re-emphasizes that Beloved has employed gothic elements in order to deal with trauma, the past and identity of the black people. The supernatural intervention has positive influences on the protagonists. In a word, through the great novel Beloved, by using the gothic style, Morrison presents the essence of black culture, the spirit of black people working together and does contribute to the American literature to a great extent.

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