Remembering the Past in Contemporary African American Fiction

By Keith Byerman | Go to book overview

Chapter Two

BURYING THE DEAD
The Pain of Memory in Beloved

Memory has played a special role in the shaping of African American culture generally and in contemporary literature specifically, as can be seen in the three chapters of this section. It affects the way the individual relates to the group, especially in an environment where both personal and group identity have been denigrated, as in much of the history of the United States. It also affects the group's sense of itself, as the stories of the past are repeated from generation to generation. As will also be seen, in the context of a traumatic history, memory also plays a complicated role as events are both repressed and recurrent. Scenes of violence, humiliation, and dehumanization are blocked out by both individuals and communities, but they cannot thereby be erased. In the works of Toni Morrison, Ernest Gaines, Gloria Naylor, and Sherley Anne Williams, we can see the dynamic of memory's repression and its return, as characters and communities struggle to come to terms with trauma. We also see the ambiguities inherent in efforts to achieve recovery and healing from that trauma.

The dedication of Beloved is to the “Sixty Million and more” who were victims of the European slave trade. The number of Africans directly affected by that trade has been variously estimated by historians from fifteen to a hundred million. The choice of sixty million, I would suggest, is an act of signifying by Toni Morrison. The number echoes and multiplies the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. It suggests simultaneously a connection to and difference from that more recent horror. Both events have been historically contentious in recent years, with arguments made about their realities and effects. Both have also served to create a sense of a special people shaped by a legacy of suffering. Such a legacy is important for group identity in a time when science has discredited biology as the basis for such identity. The trauma

-27-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Remembering the Past in Contemporary African American Fiction
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
/ 228

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.