Instructions for Essay 1: Beloved: Women: Mothers and Monsters
(This essay is worth 100 points and is due on Wednesday, Sept. 26. You may turn it in early. Your essay should be a minimum of three full pages: double-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman, and one-inch margins.)
In many ways, Beloved is a novel about the emergence of a new identity for African women in the United States. This emerging African woman, who is largely illustrated in Sethe, is dramatically different from Grandma Baby Suggs on one end and Denver on the other. As you are reading the novel, Beloved, think about the different portrayals of women embodied in these characters, as well as Beloved, herself. Also, consider this quote from former slave, Sojourner Truth:
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?
Sojourner Truth, Women’s Convention, Akron Ohio, 1851
US abolitionist (1797 – 1883)
With the above information in mind, as well as any sources such as those posted on VSpace, address the following in your essay:
1) Do you think author Toni Morrison believes Sethe made the right choice in how she chose to protect her children from slavery? Support your answer with evidence from the book.
2) How does Morrison’s portrayal of Sethe’s response to slavery compare to at least one of the following characters: Beloved, Baby Suggs and Denver. What qualities are shared and not shared?
3) Based on your answer above, what point does Morrison seem to be making in regard to the nature of motherhood and what it means to be a woman, especially an African-American woman, in the United States?
Your answer to the questions above will help form your thesis. You should use the passages you’ve collected from Assignment 1 as evidence to support your thesis.
You can work in groups to explore similar topics, but you must write your own paper. Working in groups is a good way to discover deeper meanings in the text.