The Beloved teaching pedological essay



Various debates about beloved are about the excess use of psychoanalysis in explaining the novel and the title character. Others argue that little time is spent in exploring other approaches. In this essay, we try to bridge the gap by showing how pedagogical strategies and developing the scholarship offers methods of examining the novel histories as well as modes of understanding to the students.

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One of the aspects used in this approach is using the student’s knowledge on cultural logics so as to interrupt common problems that come with over generalizing. This helps to address directly the complex subject matter that dominate discussions of beloved and then expose the differing cultural logics of the student.

In the teaching, the student is shown how the tradition of literature traps and also liberates us.  Using the developing scholarship on the cultural logics, students are helped to examine how the different belief systems usually shape literature and ways of understanding. We also talk of how the development of the novel is subject to cultural logics of historical moments (Schuster, 123 ).It is also important for the students to identify the generalization of literary patterns and use their own knowledge to control learning

Step two involves identifying student’s and characters cultural logics. The aim is to help them understand that the characters are not only former slaves but people who make choices within belief systems and suffer consequences of acting outside communities where they live.


Teaching the Book, Beloved

Morrison uses his book Beloved to give us anew way of life, known and unknown thing in the slave experience. The novel takes place in a place called Cincinnati, Ohio. This is a station of slaves where they escape on the railway road and them migrate northwards after emancipation.  Morrison looks into sexual cruelties, family break ups, quality of the after slavery life, chain gangs, and cohesiveness of poor community, insanity, and fugitive slave Laws, middle passage and social Darwinism. These swirl around a central table of slave woman killing an infant.

To enable the students understand the history context, I demonstrate a lecture on experiences of Slaves in United States. This is done using slides with images that show images showing the experiences of slavery. These are shown in slide shows to enhance easy understanding of students. I obtain the images from auxiliary materials as well as textbooks and create the slides. Many images obtained help the students have a more drama filled and emotional feeling. This makes it a better teaching as students pay attention more (Sophie, 1).

It can also be taught effectively when the teacher discuss together with students, given as assignments to students individually or in groups which are later presented orally in class. This takes three to four days of class time for the discussions. Students should be able to understand and appreciate Morrison’s references once they have more knowledge in the history she has referred to. The knowledge obtained in this introduction serves the class well as they read and connect the character’s experience with knowledge obtained of slavery.

The literature in this book can be seen in the various imageries that the writer has portrayed in the entire book.

Water imagery- This can be shown how people leave a world when they want to escape by giving porous boundaries to world. Their hope exists when they can flee and find a new place to live. Dangers exist because new forces threaten and the old, might pursue.  The two are seen as Paul and Sethe leave the South to cross Ohio River to seek for freedom.

Tree imagery-this imagery resonate in different and powerful ways in linking Greek myths, biblical stories and African folktales. Students become familiar with the trees as images of nature –the tree of knowledge from the bible, tree of life etc (Morrison, 124). Morrison also extend tree imagery by showing slaves hanging in trees and sweet men taking refuge in them (Vicky, 85).

Animal imagery- The author shows the evils done to slaves like animals. Also the woman who tried to kill her children is asked by the master whether he has two feet or four. The students here tent to ask themselves what makes a human and whether humans are more evil than animals.

The students keep journals as they do their reading and attempt questions that will be of different difficulty to be able to identify their interpretation o the questions. The questions will be judged according to; the way the question is answered, whether the student sticks to the text and used any quotes, elaborate so as to explain and strengthen arguments, sound like a journal writer, and provide journal writer’s opinion.

At the beginning of every lesson, there is a brief discussion of the previous lesson questions, check whether the students have completed their questions. After covering every unit, students evaluate their entries and write to me a letter in their journal about their quality of entries. Once I read them, I respond to their self evaluations. These may be categorized as their home work grade.

The chapters in this book are of different lengths and some are very short. It would be better if the novel is split into weekly or daily reading assignments depending on the length of a chapter, so that students can have enough time to read and understand the contents without much strain (


 Origin of the Slavery Based Race in United States.

The indentured servants were the main source of workmen in American colonies. The Europeans who wanted to be in America but were not able to meet the cost of the journey travelled by the sea used to sign contracts to work with a master for several years when they arrive in America until they repay. The arrangement was not ideal because the servants would be mistreated, be given no food, and even work for even seven years without money, land, and skills. First lot of Africans to arrive in British North America came in a ship of the Dutch. Fewer records are found about their status but they were believed to be treated like the indentured servants (Sophie, 1).

Slowly by slowly the supply of immigrants from Europe who desired to enter in the indentured servant reduced in the seventeenth century. This is because the tales of cruelties, abuse of servants had reached Europe. Also people who previously served out indentures had not prospered as it was thought in this new world.

It therefore became very economical for the employers to get slaves who would work for life other than employ indentured servants time and again. Slavery slowly by slowly became a determined institution whereby Africans were caught and taken to America where they were sold to be slaves for life. Children of the slaves were also seen as slaves (Sophie, 1).

The Central Passage.

The business of seventeenth century of kidnapping the West Africans then, taking them over the Atlantic and work in Central America and Caribbean grew and extended to North America in eighteenth century. The European traders sold guns and also other goods for human laborers. The slave trade encouraged different ethnic groups to become enemies and prisoners who were caught in war were also made slaves. A journey from Africa to America was travelled by ship and was a dangerous and frightening journey. The Africans were not allowed in the deck, they did not have enough space to lie down or stand. This led to dome dyeing as a result of suffocation and some were very sick. The food provided was not nourishing and was rotten and was given in small quantities(Morrison,75).

Some of the Africans ended up by killing themselves because they did not know what was to happen to them, they were also not able to communicate with one another due to language barrier. They killed themselves by jumping from the ship. Mothers threw their young ones into the waters to protect them from having the bad moments and conditions. A story is given of a woman slave who was pregnant with a child. When the conditions could not be terrolated any more, as insults and harsh treatments went on, she thought it was better to kill the child in the womb as well as herself and did the same (Reyes, 82). However, the officers on the ship were on the watch out and anybody found trying to kill young ones or with attempted murder was punished severely so as to discourage the other people on the ship from doing the same.

The Slave Trade

            Slaves were traded by auction to highest binder in British colonies. Africans would stand naked, show their teeth as the potential buyers would look and examine them keenly.

Members of a family would be traded to different buyers who would take them to live across the entire colonies with no hope of re uniting with parents or children (Morrison, 16). This fear stayed with the slaves all their lives because if at anytime the master required money, died or became unhappy with the slave, the master could decide to sell the slave and remove from the family for ever.

How the Slaves were treated.

Most of the slaves lived as agricultural workers and their work evolved so as to meet demands of non expensive labor in agricultural colonies in Southern. The slaves working on fields used to perform hard manual labor for many hours without food or resting.

Slaves working around the owner’s house like cooks, butlers, maids and gardeners used to be called house slaves. Their jobs were less straining compared to those on fields. They also had better living conditions. Nevertheless, they used to negotiate a complicated interaction with the owners of the farm.

The urban slaves were a bit better because they could gain knowledge in selling even though their earnings were given to the masters. Those in the cities were more independent than rural ones because they were better treated and not abused.

Nat Turner’s Rebellion and the Increased Restrictions

A certain black preacher called Nat Turner led slave revolt which was done in 1831, in Virginia. His people killed fifty five people before they could be stopped (Morrison, 1). He was later killed with twenty other people. Two hundred slaves were also killed who did not have anything concerning or were not part of the rebellion. The laws became tougher in most of the cities so as to prevent success of future rebellions. Law was passed to prevent slaves from gaining skills in reading as well as writing, gathering, voting and holding prayers in absence of a white man.

The Conflict over the Slavery Issue.

As slavery became harsh, the efforts making it come to an end also became strong with time and in 1833, Society of Anti Slavery in American came to be. Throughout North America and parts of the South, the movement of outlaw slavery spread through newspapers and abolitionist lectures. Some of the leaders of this movement included William Lloyd, who published an abolitionist newspaper, Frederick Douglass the liberator and publisher of a paper which was known as North Star, an author of many books with experience in slavery. Sojourner, a lecturer for abolitionist and women’s rights causes was also part of the team.

Slavery was still allowed especially in Southern part, and some areas of the United States. Federal battles came to be in the Congress over laws governing the slaves. In 1850, a tough Fugitive Act of Slaves made it easy for owners of slaves to recover those who had gone away. Later in 1857, Supreme Court was tabled with the case of Dred Scott, which argued that a slave with whom the owner had gone with in Free State should not be enslaved again. The court decided that African American were actually not citizens of US and therefore do not have the rights that the white man should respect (Sophie, 1).


After Civil War came to an end, slavery was abolished officially. The government of South reconstructed the Southern society. Chances for power posts to be taken by African-Americans were created at this period and large scale reforms for the slave based society.(Morrison, 276)

Northern Migration

            Most of these reforms were not for a long period of time as the government was not responsive, there was inadequate land and hate groups of the whites began to deny possibilities which were available to Africans in the South. This led to most of the black people deciding to vacate from the rural southern community to urban North area in search of freedom and jobs (Sophie, 1).



Students are filled with guilt and questions and sometimes with a reassurance that one will reap what he or she will sow. the slavery that the Southern people inflicted on one another is an echo and also the result of the slavery they put into themselves.

Morrison uses his book Beloved to give us anew kind of life new and unfamiliar elements of slave experience. The novel takes place on the outskirts of Cincinnati, Ohio. This is a station for slaves where they escape on the railway road and migrate northwards after emancipation.  The author looks into sexual cruelties (Morrison,37), family break ups, slavery life, chain gangs, poor community, insanity, and fugitive slave Laws, the middle passage and social Darwinism. All these swirl around the central table of slave woman killing an infant.

The book is demanding and therefore requires a lot of experience by the teacher handling it (Reyes, 82). Students are able to take center stage in the class discussions that leave me to add few points when need arises. However, the book cannot be handled by students on their own. The book contains a lot of hard issues in the spectrum of sexuality and violence, are to be dealt with by both the teacher and students.


Nellie Y. McKay, and Kathryn Earlie. Approaches to Teaching the Novels of Toni Morrison. New York, 1997.

Courlander, Harold. A Treasury of African Folkrole. New York. Marlowe and Co, 1996.

Decker Schuster.  Teaching Beloved: Interrupting Cultural Logics and Defining Rememories as Elegiac Strategies. Vol.39, No.1, Spring, 2006.6 Dec 2012.

Vicky Greenbaum, Teaching Beloved Images of Transcendence. 2002. 6 Dec 2012

Plasa, Carl ed. Toni Morrison’s Beloved: Columbia critical Guides. New York: Columbia UP, 1998.

Sophie Bell. This is Not a Story to Pass On: Teaching Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, 2012. 8 Dec 2012.



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