The predicament with an essay such as this one is that the prompt is so open ended that it causes the mind to wander in a multitude of different directions. Where should my focus be found? Should it lie in the evidence I found in the text or the ideas burgeoning in my brain, begging to be penned on a piece of paper? In the end, I have decided to go with the train of thought that inspires the most passion in me; a thought that I have been itching to put in writing and explore: the connection between Toni Morrison’s Beloved, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude.
On the surface, this connection I have drawn seems odd or inconsequential since it appears completely unconnected to anything we have been discussing in class. After all, what does a course about Morrison and Dante have to do with Marquez? When interpreting the prompt, I have decided to do so somewhat abstractly, applying the concept of connecting two texts that seem to come from vastly different worlds, and am excited to share the links I have uncovered. Similarly to how there is no way Morrison wrote Beloved without being heavily influenced by Dante, I also believe she has taken note of Marquez’s novel, which was only published 20 years prior to hers. There are too many similarities in some of the characters between the novels for this connection to be denied, and I believe this essay, which serves as a time capsule for my mindset at the start of this class, is the perfect vehicle for it to be explored.
The most obvious connection, the one that struck me the most, is the similarity of relationships between Denver and Beloved, and Amaranta and Rebeca. To start out, neither of these girls are biological siblings, as Rebeca and Beloved are both orphan characters that are adopted by the matriarchs, Ursula and Sethe respectively. At this point in Beloved, Denver is a lonely girl desperately trying to hang on to any scrap of love or companionship she can get. When Beloved arrives, a seemingly quiet and complacent companion for the solitary Denver, she jumps at the opportunity to be a part of something; to be a part of someone. Denver, despite nursing Beloved back to full health and serving as a constant ally, can never seem to surmount the pedestal Sethe holds in Beloved’s eyes. Anytime Denver deigns to say something remotely unbecoming or tinged with annoyance about her mother, Beloved’s demeanor darkens. Beloved’s secret, passionate, and protective underbelly is hidden by the weak, quiet, and frankly childish demeanor she tends to portray, content to sit and suck her thumb while the world spins around her. These are direct parallels to the relationship and archetypes of Amaranta and Rebeca. As mentioned previously, Denver is the embodiment of Amaranta, a young girl whose countless disappointments in love only serve to harden her heart for generations to come. Beloved, on the other hand, has clear connections to Rebeca, an orphan who finds her way into the Buendia household as a child who carries a bag of her parents’ bones, has a tendency to eat earth, and is constantly seen sucking her thumb. In Marquez’s novel, these motifs associated with Rebeca boil down to sex, love, and passion. Rebeca never wanted to settle down; she only wanted to maintain a level of carnal, animalistic desire that can never be satisfied on a human plane.
It is the different ideas of love that tear the relationship between Amaranta and Rebeca apart. Both are infatuated with a man named Pietro Crepsi, however he ends up choosing Rebeca and the two become engaged following a passionate love affair. Rebeca pushes off the engagement for years, before abandoning him and starting a new, even more passionate and savage affair with her adoptive brother. Crespi then decides to woo Amaranta, the sister who was initially burned, but she is still so full of hate from the aftermath of the love triangle, that she rejects him and he kills himself. In my mind, if Denver is the Amaranta figure and Beloved is the Rebeca, that makes Sethe the Crespi. When thinking back to the point in Beloved where I am right now, it seems like Beloved is merely using Denver to get to Sethe, and that when given the chance, Sethe would choose Beloved over Denver. When the strength of Beloved’s affection for Sethe becomes obvious to Denver, it may cause the latter to discover a hurt she had no idea existed, one that surpasses any sliver of pain, love, and loneliness she has ever felt before. Not only would it cause Denver’s downfall, but the possibility of Sethe losing Beloved and the new passion she brings to her life would be detrimental, leading to either a physical or spiritual death akin to that of Crespi. I feel as if something big is going to happen. Whether it be a shattered relationship that cannot be pieced back together or lost love that may never be recovered, all I know is that somebody (maybe everybody) is going to get irreversibly hurt.
When comparing Beloved to Dante’s Inferno, one large theme that drew me in and has remained prevalent in my mind is the idea of selfless love versus selfish love. Is it selfless for a mother to love her child, to make a choice for them that they do not have the capacity to make? Is it selfish to give into the throes of desire, regardless of consequences? These themes are also examined in One Hundred Years of Solitude, showing that passionate love cannot survive, and that where fire sparks, a storm will come to snuff it out as soon as it has arrived. So far, it seems the same can be said for Beloved. Where there is passion, there is destruction. It is only a matter of time before I see which characters escape from the flames, and who gets consumed by the burn. While the sheer idea of connecting Dante to this text may have inspired me to explore another possible text connection by giving my observations merit and me the confidence to explore a train of thought that I desperately needed to get down on paper, this is a good point, I feel, to remember why the Dante connection is so important in the trajectory of Beloved. Although it is a complex story with many themes, the primary purpose of Marquez’s novel was to show how families and societies get stuck in the same cycles. That purpose does not necessarily align with that of Dante’s Inferno and Morrison’s Beloved.
If there is anything I have learned at the threshold of this class, it is that when one reaches the pits of hell, they eventually will reach a point where they cannot do anything but go up. Marquez’s novel does not have this climb, which is the linchpin to Beloved and its relationship with Dante. Regardless of whether my thoughts can be considered correct or incorrect, I am happy I was able to explore this whim, which I had picked up on from the second I began reading Morrison’s novel. The prompt for this essay was purposefully vague, making it simultaneously frustrating and a gift. For all that it is annoying to not have much direction, I am grateful I was given the chance to allow a glimpse into my brain, my thought process, and how I write. I am ready to move on to the next phase of the semester. I am now ready to cross the threshold.