The Healing Power of the Ghost In Toni Morrison’s Beloved : An Analysis Through the Poststructuralist Lens

Detta är en Kandidat-uppsats från Högskolan i Gävle/Avdelningen för humaniora

Sammanfattning: This paper utilizes poststructuralist theory to investigate the polysemic nature of the eponymous character Beloved in Toni Morrison’s 1987 novel Beloved. The ghostly, anachronistic presence of Beloved renders the text open to multiple interpretations and this essay sets out to explore the ways in which meaning is created and communicated. From a poststructuralist perspective, considering that the meaning is in a state of flux, a text weaves its system of meaning around an assumed center in order to provide so-called stability. Peripheral meanings are repressed by the center to secure the meaning system. However, the periphery, which has a constructive function in the organization of the text, also has the deconstructive potential. Hence, the deconstructive dynamics are already inherent in the text. In Beloved, Toni Morrison addresses, among other things, the act of speaking the unspeakable and the process of constructing a new subjectivity out of the ghost of the past. Her text deconstructs the dominant narratives that have marginalized the black motherhood experience, explores the horrors of slavery through horror elements, and eventually exposes the inadequacy of language to depict such horrors. While the textual periphery is enabled to speak louder than the center, the textual subconscious flows freely. The reader is forced to participate actively in meaning-making in order to make sense of the fragmented narrative imbued with deliberate ambiguity. Beloved, as the abject other, defies the phallogocentric symbolic order. A counter-discourse emerges from the maternal, semiotic chora and empowers the otherized heroine Sethe to construct her subjectivity. Delving into the interrelationship between traumatic memory and the act of creating one’s own narrative, the text finds reparative elements in ancestral connection and thereby blends the psychological with the historical and the micro-level with the macro-level of meaning. This paper employs deconstructive key concepts from Jacques Derrida, psychoanalytic key concepts from Julia Kristeva, and seeks to unravel the dynamics in Morrison’s text that enable Beloved to be read polysemically.

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