Baby Suggs vs Bernice Johnson Reagon

Hello all!

I found today’s video to be really interesting.  I was reminded of Baby Suggs’ religious speakings when Bernice Johnson Reagon was talking/singing.  Reagon explained how communal singing announced that black people “were here”–that they existed.  I think that Baby Suggs’ spoken “Word” allowed black people to feel a similar sense of belonging.

This is from page 103, explaining how Baby Suggs’ preaching came about: “It started that way: laughing children, dancing men, crying women and then it got mixed up.  Women stopped crying and danced, men sat down and cried, children danced; children danced, women laughed, children cried until, exhausted and riven, all and each lay about the clearing damp and gasping for breath.  In the silence that followed, Baby Suggs, holy, offered up to them her great big heart.”

I think what Reagon does is similar to Baby Suggs in that she raises people the same way Baby Suggs does.  Baby Suggs tried to get as many people as possible to join in, and Reagon does the same.   Morrison writes that the black people were “gasping for breath.”  From this image, I pictured Reagon singing with others.

One of my favorite things that Reagon said was how, when black people sing together, they say “I” instead of “We.”  “We” implies the presence and inclusion of white people, while “I” brings together African Americans alone.  I enjoyed listening to her explain this.

Do you think Baby Suggs and Reagon are similar?  Do you notice any differences?


Snow Tension

When we were asked in class to discuss the relation (if any) between accumulating snowfall and Beloved, I was drawing blanks. It almost felt as if I was trying to force a connection. But, after some discussion and brainstorming, my group and I introduced the idea that falling snow could be a reflection of the tension building between the characters in the story. Just as the early flurries of a blizzard appear harmless and somewhat pleasant, the tensions amongst the people in Sethe’s household give off the same vibe, with benign interactions increasing in danger with accumulation.

The first example is found Continue reading “Snow Tension”

Beloved Through Stages of Infancy

Both A Mercy and Beloved are filled with mother-child relationships, many of which drive the stories. In A Mercy, we see Florens and a minha mae, Florens and Lina, Sorrow and Complete, as well as Rebekka and her various children. In Beloved we have Sethe and Denver, Beloved, and her sons, as well as multiple mother figures for Sethe herself.  I couldn’t even begin to cover the dynamics between mothers and children in the two of Morrison’s books that we’ve read so far in one blog post, though Sarah P. mentions Rebekka’s relation with her children here. Yet in thinking about mothers and children in Beloved, especially Sethe’s relationship with Beloved, I noticed that the way which Morrison introduces Beloved seems to create parallels between Beloved and the development of an infant. Continue reading “Beloved Through Stages of Infancy”

Sound in Beloved

(Plot Spoiler if you haven’t finished the reading for 9/26) On Wednesday, Ken brought up that Morrison might have chosen Paradise as the title for the final work in her trilogy simply because she likes the way it sounds, and Dr. Beth wrote the word “sound” on the board. I was instantly reminded of some thoughts on the usage of sound in Beloved that I had when I first read the novel, and I thought I would share them here. In Dr. Beth’s class, I was introduced to Bernice Johnson Reagon who observed that “sound is a way to extend the territory you can affect…so people can walk into you way before they can get close to your body.” Morrison mirrors this extension of our beings in Beloved. Continue reading “Sound in Beloved”

Banned Books

Earlier this week, Professor McCoy mentioned that Beloved often makes appearances on banned books lists. Though Professor McCoy only made brief mention of this, I think its worthy of further discussion. As such, I decided to do some research on book banning, and coincidentally discovered that National Banned Book Week begins on September 25. So let’s talk about banned books. According to the American Library Association:

“By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship.”

Continue reading “Banned Books”


As I’ve been reading Beloved, Morrison’s use of hands has stuck out to me the most, but unfortunately I cannot seem to find a way to smoothly add it in to our current conversation. I even looked to see if there might be an article somewhere on the use of hands in Beloved but came up… empty-handed. *Crickets*. And although we have not really looked into it and I can’t seem to find anything else that has, I still believe it is a theme worth some attention.

I began to notice how Toni Morrison makes use of hands as a descriptor when I caught how often she mentioned Amy’s “good good hands,” (95). Four times in one chapter. Hands seem to Continue reading “Hands”

Shadows and Sinners

As it was pointed out in our introduction to Dante, there are a staggering number of subtle parallels between Dante’s trilogy and Morrison’s. The one that currently holds the most interest for me, and I will be exploring it here, is the presence of ombras/shades. In Inferno, Dante’s Pilgrim encounters ombras, souls in Hell who have sinned, thus condemning themselves to the afterlife there. As a class, we came to the consensus that these souls had each “done individual things” causing their eternal punishment. It implies a kind of agency. Being trapped in Hell didn’t just happen to them. Continue reading “Shadows and Sinners”

Infant Death and Haunting in “A Mercy” and “Beloved”

As we make the leap from Morrison’s A Mercy to Beloved this week, I can’t help but ask myself one question:

Why so many infant deaths?

In A Mercy, we learn of the numerous untimely passing of Rebekka’s babies. These deaths cause her grief that essentially serve as a driving force for her actions and relationships. For instance, Lina notes that she observes Mistress turning to God for prayer, although she previously believed her to not be much of a “Christian woman”. In Rebekka’s extreme grief, Morrison highlights the severity of impact that a broken maternal bond can produce for a mother. These dead essentially children “haunt” Rebekka, causing her shame, despair, and sadness.  Continue reading “Infant Death and Haunting in “A Mercy” and “Beloved””

Dante’s Inferno in music

In high school my band played The Divine Comedy composed by Robert W. Smith. Robert W. Smith composed the three different parts of the Divine Comedy; Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso as all separate movements.  He told Dante’s story through music, and for me it really brings Dante’s story to life. Listening to Inferno you can almost imagine yourself entering Hell. The lone oboe solo in the beginning may represent Dante’s long journey into Hell. The loud percussion and brass throughout the movement really have a way of making you feel scared, and vulnerable. As Dante keeps making his way into the depths of Hell, Robert W. Smith adds human moans of agony and whipping sounds. This interpretation that Robert W Smith allows the listener to really understand the pain and harshness of Hell and the way Dante was feeling as he encountered it.

Here is Robert W. Smiths Divine Comedy I.- The Inferno