I first heard about Beloved last year, while talking to a friend who was a senior. When I asked her what her opinion of the book was, she replied, "It's horrible. They have sex with cows!" As I read further into Beloved, I'm beginning to think that this analysis--at least the part about the whole book being about insanity in the face of inconceivable hardship--might not be too far off.
Morison has an interesting habit of suddenly dropping bits of horror, pain, and craziness about slavery into random passages without warning. The most obvious example of this is the cows, which Morrison mentions multiple times in the first chapter, as if she is getting the reader ready for all future instances of insanity falling from the sky. Morrison's decision to drop the f-bomb only increases the shock factor of an already shocking story.
I've spotted at least two more instances when Morrison--or, more accurately, Paul D--suddenly begins to ruminate about horrible facts about slavery. On page 63, he likens Beloved to the people who "were running from family that could not support them, some to family; some were running from dead crops, dead kin, life threats, and took-over land" (63). Later, on page 78, Paul D again contrasts Beloved with the crazy slaves, including the fourteen-year-old with no memory and the woman who stole "ducks she believed were her own babies" (78). These are extremely powerful passages that seem to pop up out of nowhere. It seems like Morrison's point is that people who live in horrible, lonely conditions have no choice but to do horrible things or go crazy.
Does anyone know the significance of the similarities in the two sections above--both with Paul D talking about Beloved? Also, all of these sudden slavery passages seem to be from Paul D's point of view, unless I've missed some. Sethe, of course, also discusses the brutality of slavery, but these passages seem to fit more into the story than Paul D's, which, as I said, seem to come out of nowhere, thus adding shock value and emphasis.