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Main Ideas

Style

Main Ideas Style

The style of Beloved is direct, yet nuanced and evocative. The syntax and word choice are straightforward, but the narrative presents details that cannot always be understood in their full significance on a first reading. Consider the novel’s opening sentences: “124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom.” The first sentence is very short and grammatically straightforward. However, without the context to understand that 124 refers to a house number, the meaning of this otherwise simple sentence is difficult to make sense of right away. Likewise, a first-time reader will not yet know that the sentence fragment “Full of a baby’s venom” refers to the ghost of a young child haunting the house at 124. Though direct, Morrison’s blend of sensory details and evocative, haunting diction requires the reader to spend more time unpacking the core meaning.

Though most of the novel is narrated by an anonymous narrator, the brief sections narrated by Sethe, Denver, and Beloved each feature different styles that reflect each character’s way of speaking. For instance, Sethe’s and Denver’s speech patterns, though grammatically distinct, are both direct. By contrast, Beloved speaks in a heightened style that proves much more challenging to understand. Morrison represents Beloved’s speech in unpunctuated prose that is full of physical gaps: “some who eat nasty themselves I do not eat the men without skin bring us their morning water to drink.” Lacking the context necessary to make links between each discrete image, it is not immediately evident what Beloved is talking about. Instead, the reader must work harder than usual to interpret the language.