The past is a fearsome ghost hanging over Sethe’s life. It is 1873, slavery has been abolished, and while she now lives a safe and seemingly peaceful life, she remains haunted by a dark act she committed 20 years ago. She has stayed sane by “beating back the past” , but the horrendous legacy of the slavery she endured has scarred her and her children. Sethe killed her baby daughter to save her from a life in slavery, and this troubled spirit has possessed Sethe ever since. When a beautiful young woman appears, seductive, demanding and malevolent, Sethe will do anything to appease her and be forgiven, negating herself and everyone else in the process. Beloved is a powerfully disturbing and frightening reminder of the enduring horror of slavery, beautifully written.
Beloved has been frequently challenged for its “obscene subject matter”, “inappropriate topics of bestiality, racism and sex” and the passages about ghosts. According to the American Library Association, Beloved is challenged so often that it is number 7 on the top 100 most-challenged classics of all time.