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Did You Know

Beloved won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988, but the award did not come without uproar. Only months before, Morrison'' novel was a finalist for the National Book Award and after Beloved was snubbed, many critics were angered. Well before the awards season, Beloved had received universal acclaim in a rather tepid year of American Arts and Letters, so many critics assumed that the novel would win both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Amid allegations of sexism and racism, dozens of critics and artists (mostly African-Americans) signed a printed letter that ran in the national press, re-affirming the genius of Morrison's work and casting aspersions on the selection committee for the National Book Award. The Pulitzer Prize certainly reaffirmed Morrison's stature, and the Pulitzer committee reiterated a statement that their award was unaffected by the NBA hoopla. At any rate, two novels and five years later, Morrison won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature. While the prizes had been awarded for roughly a century, Morrison was the first African-American to win the award (Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison had all been favorites to win in the past) and only the ninth female to be so awarded.

Oprah Winfrey recently converted Toni Morrison's Beloved into a movie and the reviews were...interesting. While most critics appreciated Winfrey's efforts to make literature accessible, many reviews hinted that Beloved's literary force came from structures and themes that were especially difficult to adapt for the cinematic version. Part of the disjoint between the cinematic and literary versions comes from Morrison's application of "magical realism." Like her fellow Nobel Laureate, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Morrison is an expert in this: the juxtaposition of historical and physical realities (like slavery, childbirth or murder) with supernatural, "magical" elements: (a baby ghost, a flying dog, an exploding woman). The most expert "practitioners" of magic realism are most noted for the ability to write "realistic" prose that is able to "magically" oscillate between different places and times, to produce resonating "realities" and truths. Beloved comes back from the dead and carries the memories of her own death, the death of Sethe's mother, and the suffering forgotten masses who were lost in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Without these devices at hand, the chapters of Part Two's conclusion would be a cumbersome read - but at the same time, it is difficult to paint these complex psychological portraits on a movie screen.

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points To Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8 and 9
Chapter 10 and 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14 and 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17 and 18
Chapter 19 and 20
Chapter 21 and 22
Chapter 23 and 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27 and 28


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