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Table of contents
- Fiction: The s to the Present - Semantic Scholar
- Toni Morrison's Discredited Magic – Magical Realism in Beloved
- 1. Introduction
- Article excerpt
Sleeps, eats and raises hell. Whipping Sethe every day. A baby? The age it would have been had it lived. The male characters more often tend to talk warily about them. Something funny about her. Talks funny. Equally surprised Stamp Paid seeks to account rationally for Beloved appearance. Found him dead last summer and the girl gone. Dark and coming. She sees the main difference between these two expressions in their different origins. She would rather identify with Black people who had to invent their magic in the midst of a new American reality.
Slavery engendered the ultimate discredit of black people, the multidimensionality of which Morrison reimagines in her novel. As a result, while incorporating supernatural occurrences that appear real and ordinary, Morrison at the same time subverts this characteristic of magical realism by rendering the ordinary magical, the real miraculous.
Paul D also possesses an invigorating power that causes others to open up and confess. Things became what they were: drabness looked drab; heat was hot. Windows suddenly had view. Sethe escapes from Sweet Home pregnant. Hungry and exhausted she feels she cannot survive in the wilderness.
Fiction: The s to the Present - Semantic Scholar
Her groan, evoked by her imagination, almost magically summons a white girl, who helps Sethe to deliver the baby. The best thing she was, was her children. The reality the discredited characters face also requires continuous redefinition of their existence and humanity. It is like a never-ending attempt to start everything anew. They confront a new reality in the New World defined by someone else.
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Paul D, in turn, ponders over the dehumanization of black people. The critic Amaryll Chanady , analyzing the works of the Guatemalan author Miguel Angel Asturias, states, magical realism subverts the canons of ethnographic representation. The scientific field that supported the formation of the belief in black inferiority was natural history. Cornel West 55 writes, The principal aim of natural history is to observe, compare, measure, and order animals and human bodies or classes of animals and human bodies based on visible, especially physical, characteristics.
These characteristics permit one to discern identity and difference, equality and inequality, beauty and ugliness among animals and human bodies. The tenets of natural history were compatible with those of phrenology the study of skulls , physiognomy the reading of faces , and western aesthetics that considered Caucasian features as the universal reference for the human race.
In turn, Euro-American slaveholders made use of such ideas as an ideological tool for the subjugation of black people as cheap labor force. The device had the disabling effect of preventing Paul D from expressing words of consolation to a dispirited Halle. I just kept lifting my feet and pushing back. Sethe responds emotionally to terrors.
Toni Morrison's Discredited Magic – Magical Realism in Beloved
An instance of the documented historical sources reconstructed in the novel are the discriminating, disgraceful notes written by schoolteacher. Morrison discounts its reliability through the perspective of Paul D.
He simply looked at the face, shaking his head no. At the mouth, you see. And no at whatever it was those black scratches said, and no to whatever it was Stamp Paid wanted him to know. Because there was no way in hell a black face could appear in a newspaper if the story was about something anybody wanted to hear.
Nor was it there because the person had been killed, or maimed or caught or burned or jailed or whipped or evicted or stomped or raped or cheated, since that could hardly qualify as news in a newspaper. Moreover, it does not have any bearing on the victimization of the enslaved. The traumatic experience of slavery engenders a complex conceptualization of life and death. On the one hand, in spite of the barbaric treatment some black characters receive, they magically affirm life and their own uniqueness holding on to thoughts and emotions that uplift.
Baby Suggs also knows that self-love has a quintessential value as a strategy of survival in brutish circumstances. Therefore, she inspires other people to recognize and love their precious, although abused and tormented bodies. Love it hard. On the other hand, there are also characters that see death as liberation.
Subjected to humiliation, depravity, and torture, some black people saw death as hope, liberation, and a spiritual home. The theoreticians of magical realism also stress the significant role of community. Throughout their experience, black people responded to the cruelty of the modern world not only as individuals but also collectively. In Beloved, Toni Morrison delineates the empowering communal unity during slavery and its aftermath.
Another character Lady Jones also ministers to her community. Her welcoming spirit invites Denver to ask her for assistance. In order to help the young girl and her mother, Lady Jones calls upon other black women of the community, who share their food with Denver and Sethe. Moreover, a distinct value system grew out of the Black American communal experience.
This faith expresses itself in Black American work songs, and blues, a genre that the character Paul D sang together with other chained men relating to the vicissitudes of life. They sang the women they knew; the children they had been; the animals they had tamed themselves or seen others tame. They sang of bosses and master and misses; of mules and dogs and the shamelessness of life. They sang lovingly of graveyards and sisters long gone.
Of pork in the woods; meal in the pan; fish on the line; cane, rain and rocking chairs. The work songs and blues were an empowering black secular music, through which enslaved blacks articulated their feelings about their plight. Additionally, in order to survive as a chain-gang prisoner Paul needs the help of the other forty-five men. While he is alone in the coffle, even his hands do not obey him. On their own, they traveled.
With the other men, although chained, he can rely on communal support. For one lost, all lost. The memories of traumatic experiences also bond the characters. Having an opportunity to share history, they recall and transcend terror. She states, no one tells the story about himself or herself unless forced. Her awareness of the unifying power of memory deepens her sense of alienation. It questions the rational measurability of time, space, and identity.
It contains supernatural and metatextual references. Morrison also stresses the significance of African American community and emotional historical experience. I consider that my single gravest responsibility in spite of that magic is not to lie. In this manner, the author seems to question overgeneralizing theoretical concepts employed interchangeably, and often somewhat recklessly, by literary critics. It seems indeed that there is a need for an exact definition that would differentiate magic from the fantastic and marvelous.
For instance, John Erickson contends, The term magical realism must be defined with care, for critics have used it indiscriminately, often confounding it with the marvelous or the fantastic. In Beloved, to some extent, it is black Christian faith that seems to empower Baby Suggs in her role of community spiritual counselor. When she multiplies food, she resembles Jesus who multiplied food for the assembled. Also Stamp Paid manifests black Christian values, as he helps the enslaved to cross the river over to the other side.
Therefore, Beloved, replete with references to Christianity, puts magic into question. Magical realism presents the supernatural, otherworldly phenomena as if they were a part of everyday reality. To the Christian faith, on the contrary, also connected with the otherworldly, they may be seen as the very ingredient of real life.
Therefore, since Beloved alludes to Christianity, which is crucial for African American experience and the tradition of Black resistance, the novel can be interpreted as realist instead of magic realist. Such a stance, no matter how fundamentalist it may seem from a non-religious perspective, would indeed qualify the characterization of the novel as magical realist. She hopes to produce literature that constitutes a separate literary tradition, refusing overgeneralizing classifications. To Morrison, the genealogy of African-American cultural expression is constituted by a context divergent from that of mainstream magical realism.
In regard to Beloved, slavery engenders this context. In the midst of this captivity, any psychologically or physically effective survival strategy can be regarded as an extraordinary achievement.