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Main Ideas

Setting

Main Ideas Setting

Beloved mainly takes place in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the year 1873, though the novel also features numerous flashbacks to the Sweet Home plantation in Kentucky and to a prison camp in Alfred, Georgia. Although it is not always clear when the flashback scenes took place, we know that they take place around eighteen years in the past, since it has been eighteen years since Sethe escaped from Sweet Home and journeyed north to Ohio. At the time of Sethe’s escape, around 1855, slavery was still legal in the southern United States. In the present time of the novel, however, slavery is no longer legal. As the narrative moves between flashbacks and the present time, it appears to create separation between past and present times in the novel. Yet this movement also creates a sense of continuity that shows how the legacy of slavery persists even after slavery’s official abolition. In other words, Morrison sets the novel in two time periods to show how events of the past are not easily laid to rest and frequently survive in the present.