Toni Morrison’s Beloved

Discuss a passage in Toni Morrison’s Beloved indicative of “magical realism” or “nonrealistic fiction.” How do ambiguity and suggestions of the otherworld in this passage contribute to the power of the narrative?

One of the passages that indicates magical realism is Sethe getting choked by an invisible, ghostlike figure. This passage and others like it give Beloved, a realistic novel, elements of the supernatural which categorizes it as “magical realism” fiction.  According to Wikipedia, magical realism is a story that presents magical elements as real occurrences in a straightforward manner and places the real and the fantastic in the same stream of thought. Here is another interesting definition: “Winona State University Asst. Professor of Japanese Studies, and author, Matthew Strecher defines magic realism as “…what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe.” Apparently, this critical perspective comes from “the Western reader’s disassociation with mythology, a root of magical realism more easily understood by non-Western cultures.” It seems to me that it is this aspect of “the Western reader’s disassociation with mythology” that make novels like Beloved and Invisible Man appear to be so different from traditional American literature.

Characterize Morrison’s literary style. What do you find most striking or effective about it? Why?

Morrison’s literary style can be classified as magical realism. It presents magical elements as real occurrences in a rather straightforward manner and combines real and fantastic elements in the same stream of thought. The story presents readers with multiple perspectives and her narrative as a whole is based on and guided by memories. As a result, her style is quite effective in placing the reader into her character’s experiences. Bowever, her style is also quite effective in conveying the confusion that many of the characters experience and feel throughout the novel.

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