Let’s talk about William Morris!


Hey Guys,

This is my last post for today!

Have you ever heard of William Morris?He was a British writer, artist and editor from the end of the 19th century.

He wrote a novel, “News from Nowhere” (1890) which is an utopia.

In the 19th century, London was a poverty stricken city in the midst of an industrial revolution. It was also the end of the British domination.  Previously denounced by Dickens and Blake, the situation was extremely bad and most people can’t lead a decent life.

Morris dreamed of a better city, an ideal place with no deaths, no diseases and no poverty.

The extract is set in London and the narrator is a young man who crosses the Thames and falls asleep on the other side. When he wakes up, everything has changed.

At first, the narrator is bewildered and utterly shocked. The river Thames ain’t dark and muddy anymore, it’s clean and clear. So clean the narrator bathes in it and some people are fishing. The waterman is an educated and good-looking young man with fine clothing and a quick spirit. London’s architecture and buildings have also changed: the factories and smokes are gone and the bridge was turned into a majestic and solid monument. The Buildings are fancy and clean, there’s no more soot.

An ideal city should be beautiful and it’s buildings useful. People feel better in a nice environment. Most have their place in the city. London must also respect its nature, if not, people will die. People are joyful and friendly, hunger has disappeared.

We can make a parallel between Morris’ utopia and the Cox architect.

Oliver Cox was an Architect and from 1950 to 1959, he was part of the LCC Architects’ Department. He was one of the people who designed new buildings estates in Roehampton. He stated : “We were trying to build Heaven on Earth”. He was greatly influenced by Morris and the arts and crafts movement (1860-1910) which conveyed true values. Their ideal was to oppose hand-made goods instead of mass produced goods. They had a “romantic” vision of society and a very powerful vision for a world devastated by war and under the menace of atomic destruction.

Their goal was to transform a wealthy area into a socially mixed area in order to reduce the gaps between rich and poor people. When the buildings were finished, they were given to the poorest people who finally had a true shelter and decent living conditions. The architects tried to recreate Morris’ vision of London by having a beautiful city where social classes were mixed and not separated. Even though some aspects were achieved (such as the respect of nature) it did not quite turn out like Morris’ vision.

We also reflected a short while on our vision of utopia …But it’ll probably be for a next post ^^’.

Good night everyone!

(picture credit: Daria-ts– no copyright infringement intended; for educational purposes)

The declaration of Independance and a little bit about John Locke


On the 4th of July 1776, the thirteen colonized states declared their independence. The settlers wanted their independence from Great-Britain; they paid a lot of taxes but had nothing in return, had not liberty of trade, had to support the war effort and didn’t have any American representative. This led to the Independence war. At that time, George III ruled over England. He was a stubborn king who wanted to create an absolute monarchy. To him, colonies were a way to dominate Europe in time of war for they had considerable resources. In 1783, the war was settled by the Treaty of Paris and Americans gained their freedom.

Extract of the Declaration of Independence can be found here:

What values is this society founded on?

This society is founded on Puritans values: All man were created equal and have undeniable rights. Those rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Theses values are self-evident and were a source of inspiration for many people (French included) . The declaration was a foundation of the new societies they were creating at the time. This Republic gave power to the people and in 1919, it gave women voting rights. It also separated the three main powers.

(French people were inspired by it but added “brotherhood” instead of “the pursuit of happiness”. )

A critical look on the text:

Since everyone has a right to live, why is there a death penalty or abortions?

“All men were created equal” –> What about the African population with the civil War?

The declaration has some ideals –> Gives it a Utopian aspect

I have been to the States before and was pretty amazed to see how patriotic people were. I can tell this means something to them. When I sneaked in Senior High for a day, I kinda got caught in the middle of what is called the “Allegiance pledge” and the whole classroom became really silence and pledged allegiance to their country. I’ve also been there for the fourth of July and wow, so much blue, red and white everywhere! When I compare it to France…Well, we’re not very patriotic! x)

Anyway, back to our study!

This declarations was inspired by a great thinker:

John Locke:

He was a philosopher and was considered as one of the most important enlightened thinker. His ideas revolve around the theory of the State’s nature which is basically freedom and Happiness…He stated a country had the right to rebel if its government didn’t respect Human rights (That’s what he called the Social Contract) and that human being had several natural rights: Liberty,possession, the pursuit of Happiness, life…He also talked about the separation of the State and the Church.

He had a great influence on the declaration of Independence and many of his principles were kept.


(picture credit: RadoJavor – no copyright infringement intended; for educational purposes)


Utopia: writing workshop and short extract study

Gutten tag! (I’m sorry, just getting a little sleepy…)


Since we talked about Thomas More in class, our teacher gave us an extract from Utopia that we shortly studied…And we also had a GREAT new writing workshop!

(Here‘s the extract)


1) What is at stake in this extract?

The punishment of thieves is at stake in this extract: when one is caught, he is hanged. Because of poverty, people had no choice but to rob.

2) What are the two character’s position on the subject?

The English lawyer seems to thinks it’s an adequate punishment for thieves. However, he does not understand why there are still so many of them left.

Hythloday has a widely different opinion on the subject: He believes the death penalty isn’t right. It’s not by killing people that the problem will be solved. It just denounces how much people are stricken by misery. He also states that fear cannot restrain someone from stealing: no matter what he does or doesn’t attend, his life is at stake.

3) To what extend is this a topical issue?

Today, the death penalty is still an issue in many countries, including in some states of the US. It’s applied for greater criminality but a human being’s life is still taken.

So that was the short study part…Ready for the writing workshop? I worked with a classmate (Don’t know her blog, sorry) and basically, we had to continue the dialog between the English lawyer and Hythloday. We had to act it out in front of our other classmates and our teacher. (BTW: I was playing the English lawyer…So yeah, I guess I was the bad guy!)

E.L: “Have you Heard the news? Twenty-one thieves were hanged yersterday! Judges didn’t think twice about it…Do you find it severe?

H: Excuse me, yeah, you over there! May I speak my mind?”

The English lawyers raised their eye-brows.One of them stood up and said:

E.L: ” And who are you to speak in such a bold way?

H: Hythloday, humanist and humble servant of arts and knowledge.

E.L: Well, that is quite unusual, would you see that! Some filthy traveler has set his mind onto politics! This seems amusing…

H: I’m a man with as much dignity as you; it’s quite improper for a British lawyer to say such things, you should know how harsh those punishments are for a simple thief!

E.L: Well Mr Hythloday, what do you suggest then? Should we hang their families instead…Or reward them? ” Answered he with a smirk in his voice.

H: “If a thief dies for stealing, what will happen to him if he dares suppress a human life? Will you burn him alive, tear his body apart? Thieves aren’t the problem here, poverty is and if you get to the roots of the problem, political choices are what’s wrong!

E.L: ‘Tis a very dangerous thing to say around here; your life may be holding by a threat. And be sure that the royals have nor time nor money to dedicate to those low classes. It would be such a waste! We’re not talking about citizens here, we’re dealing with parasites!”

Hythloday added quietly: “One day, you’ll be enlightened about this situation; the world will change. If you cannot grant life to an innocent who died, don’t take away the life of a sinner who lives.

E.L: The world will change when thieves will know better or pay properly for their sins!”

The end : ) Hope you enjoyed it and don’t forget to leave comments and subscribe to the blog!

(picture credit: AdamKuczek– no copyright infringement intended; for educational purposes)


Thomas and his “Utopia”



Basically, this post is meant to tell you a little bit more about Thomas More and his “Utopia” written in 1516.

Thomas More: was a British politician and writer from the end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century. He’s the one who came up with the word “utopia”, giving it as a title for his novel in 1516. Unfortunately, he was beheaded…

Utopia (1516): is a – Utopian – novel written just before the English Reformation. Its narrator Hythloday confronts his opinion with others during his travels and denounces – indirectly of course – feudalism and religious intolerance.

Ok…So that’s the very basic information. The teacher gave us a question about the vision of the author so I wrote some kind of mini essay look-alike which will surely enlighten you as to who More is really and what’s his vision like. (I have never been doing a structured essay or anything like that so please, don’t stone me if it’s not quite right!)

Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) is often considered as the first British Humanist. Educated in a monastery, he combined classical learning and intellectual curiosity with the religious faith and loyalty of the medieval times. He was a lawyer, a writer, a statesman and at some point was appointed chancellor of England. In 1513, More wrote “History of Richard III”, mostly for political reasons, but his most famous work is without a doubt “Utopia”, published in 1516. The novel was originally written in Latin (it was later published in English) and was a success in Great Britain. In it, More describes a perfect society living according to Humanist’s principles.

How do Thomas More’s vision of social systems and practices compare with those of his own time?

In his first volume, More evokes the drastic economical and moral situation of England. He denounces rack-rents, the extravagance of wealthy classes and an unjust judicial system, too harsh for poor people. The author condemns social gaps and poverty. However, we can notice he is very careful not to criticize Henry VIII by making the story take place twelve years before his reign.

The second part tells about Utopia (which literally means “no place”). More talks about some mythological golden age which also refers to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden before the original fall. Utopia is described as an ideal land giving abundant fruits. There, man creates a society relying on reason and antique values. Aristocracy and social classes don’t exist anymore: everybody is ranked the same and works to make the country prosper. Privileges have also been abolished and everybody has an equal share of property which is switched every ten years. Gold ans such riches despised ans kept to pay foreign mercenaries in case a war breaks out. Marriage is encouraged but unfaithfulness and prostitution are severely condemned. However, divorces and remarriages are allowed, even for women. In such a society, they are valued and have the same access to education as men. They can even become priests.

To conclude, we could see that More brings some answers to his society’s problems through Utopia. Some of the ideas are applicable (concerning education for women for instance) but most of them seem out of reach (suppressing social classes for example). Still, this novel is a proof of the author’s very modern principles and a strong statement against women’s discrimination and poverty.

Do you want to find out more about utopia? Check this video out!

That’s it for now, have a great evening …Or morning, depending on where you are : )

(picture credit: Zippo514– no copyright infringement intended; for educational purposes)

Orwell and totalitarianism in Literature (Short analysis of extracts)


Dear readers,

At this very moment, I have no courage left to precisely tell you about all the exposes presented to the class those past few weeks… Actually, I missed quite a few of them: I was away last week and out of the five exposes I listened to, I missed the beginning of two of them (Can’t remember what happened to me…). Anyway, enough with my weird explanations! We have basically been talking about various subjects: “orphans and education”, “Orwell and totalitarianism”, “Child labor”, “The living conditions in the 19th century”… But I’ll only be focusing on one today: “Orwell and Totalitarianism”.

Orwell is a British author from the 20th century. In 1949, he wrote a novel: “1984”, which is now a classic, in order to denounce totalitarianism. He was mainly inspired by communism and the USSR. At that time, communism had (and still has!) a very strong influence on the West of Europe.

Extract 1 (Chapter 1): No freedom

The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug-in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live – did live, from habit that became instinct – in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.

Analysis elements:

  • received” and “transmitted” : Those two verbs are opposed to each other but are complimentary. It shows the government and the people are always linked, denounces the control of the population and the propaganda.
  • any time“, “very low“, “as well as” : Show the lack of freedom and privacy.
  • Of course” : Ironic touch from the author, it emphasizes the fact that human rights are violated.
  • Thought police” : expression created for the novel : Even the minds are controlled.
  • No way of knowing” and “guesswork“: People are very vulnerable and weak, they can’t fight this power.
  • All“, “Everybody“: No one can be trusted,paranoia appears.
  • Habit” : People got used to it, find it normal.
  • Anaphora of “any“: no freedom, no uniqueness, no privacy, human beings are deprived from everything. They cannot ever escape.
  • Anaphora of “every” and “scrutinized” : People are constantly watched over.

Extract 2 (Chapter 3): Oppressed human beings

There will be no loyalty, except loyalty towards the Party. There will be no love, except the love of Big Brother. There will be no laughter, except the laugh of triumph over a defeated enemy. There will be no art, no literature, no science. When we are omnipotent we shall have no more need of science. There will be no distinction between beauty and ugliness. There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — for ever.

Analysis elements:

  • Anaphora of “loyalty“: feeling of patriotism.
  • Opposition between affirmative and negative forms: “no + noun” and “except + noun“: The only thing that matters is the government, the rest is rubbish. They can only identify themselves to the Party.
  • Party” with a capital letter: stresses the importance of this governments, almost like an idol.
  • Anaphora of “except” : The government controls everything and everything is limited.
  • Antithesis: “no distinction” and “beauty and ugliness“: Shows there is a loss of values, of the notion on uniqueness. Emotions are no longer  accepted.
  • All” : generalisation of human beings.
  • Always” associated with “stamping” and “trampling“: Gives the sensation of a crushing and violent power.
  • Lexical field of oppression and domination: Human being is nothing.
  • Metaphor of the “boot stamping on a human face“: represents totalitarianism and oppression.

Through his novel, Orwell shows the consequences of such a dictatorship. Human souls gradually disappear to become some kind of robotic or mechanic minds who accept any kind of humiliation. Orwell’s literature has had a great impact on society, it was like a huge warning sign. Literature is used by the author as a political tool.

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England during the Victorian era

queen_victoria_by_rafkinswarning-d34xliyHey everyone!

After the Elizabethan era, here’s an article about the Victorian era…

This period begins in 1837 and ends in 1901. It corresponds to queen Victoria’s reign. During this era, the world witnessed numerous changes. Great Britain became the world’s most powerful nation.

Many political changes occurred: The French revolution of 1789 has had a great impact on other countries and in the 1830s, the citizen’s rights in Great Britain were extended, a revolution occurred in Spain, slavery became illegal among the British colonies, Italy celebrated the crowning of its first king and the US civil war began. However, the British governors believed in their political system which spread through the nations. This era was quite peaceful (Victorians thought it was the key to prosperity) except from 1854 to 1856, during the Crimean war.

By 1882, England had built a huge empire and queen Victoria was called : “the queen empress”. A quarter of the world’s population was part of this empire. Missionaries and Christians were sent there to convert the Peoples.

England’s economic status was solid and London became the financial capital of the world.

When Victoria was crowned queen, the industrial revolution (1800-1840) had just begun and there was a rapid economic growth. England drastically transformed into a new place, similar to the one Dickens described in his novels, struggling with child labor, poverty, diseases…Machines were used, railways were built…etc. everything had to be faster (you know what they say: time is money!). Social gaps were still very wide and different casts didn’t “mix”.

Some scientific progresses were also made in Europe: The first computer was invented in 1842 by Charles Babbage (English) and photography was created three years earlier by Daguerre (France)…This era is characterized by its incredible progresses in science, communication, technologies, medicine…etc. . In 1842, the electric telegraph is invented by Cooke and Wheatstone (English). Vaccines were also invented.

For all the curious fellas, here’s a BBC video, very well made about queen Victoria ! : )

Have a nice week end!

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Children’s conditions in the 19th century with Dickens and Hugo

Hey everyone!


That’s my work for the theme “The writer in his century”. Unfortunately, the girl with whom I worked with was sick on the day of the presentation so I was left all alone, in front of a very scary class and teacher…No, I’m kidding! ^^’ They aren’t THAT fierce…

So… Let me start (Btw: Yay! This blog got over 150 view this month and over 50 visitors, it’s starting to work great, thanks! 😀 ).

As you know, during the 19th century in England, the industrial revolution took place. At that time, children’s conditions got worse: They had to support their families so they worked in factories. Child labor was pretty normal back then and a child (sometimes as young as five years old) would work six days a week and over twelve hours a day. Work injuries were very common and they had no insurance: If they were hurt or sick, they were fired. Most of them had no education and many children were illiterate. In 1870, the government took care of it by making laws but the poorest families couldn’t afford an education until 1891 when the school fees disappeared. Living conditions were very difficult: Poor hygiene, unhealthy or no food, diseases, high infant mortality… The two most terrible and wide-spread diseases were cholera and tuberculosis (and there was no vaccines). Families were used to the idea of losing a child. The situation was pretty similar in France.

Many authors have denounced this industrialized society. Among them are Dickens and Hugo. Through their novels, they have described their society, the social injustices as well as the living conditions…

I) Dickens: Oliver Twist: Misery and Hunger (extract here!):

Through this extract, the author describes the misery in which Oliver Twist lived in and his hunger. Dickens also denounces child exploitation.

Basic storyline: Oliver Twist is a young orphan. At nine years old, he is sent to a workhouse where there is not much food, no affection and hard living conditions.


  • Irony (Black humor)
  • Lexical field of misery and hunger
  • Anaphoras
  • Denunciation of the society through a novel and its characters

II) Hugo, Les Misérables: Poverty and Family (extract here!):

Through this extract, the poverty in the 19th century and the attitude of poor families is shown. As I said earlier, infant mortality was very high so the families didn’t create significant bonds with their children. Most of them had many children. Here, Hugo denounces children being neglected and left alone.

Basic Storyline: Gavroche comes from a poor family who doesn’t love him. He lives in the streets and wanders around. He has no love, no food, no place to stay and finally, no education.


  • Lexical field of poverty and antithesis to underline the drastic living conditions of Gavroche
  • Narrative speech

Hugo denounced through his novel and Gavroche the children’s living conditions in the 19th century.

Thorough the century, laws have been established to protect children and to provide education. Authors have influenced their society by underlining their flaws and denouncing injustice. They have had a very positive impact and have played a role in the evolution of society. As we could witness it,  France and England coped with similar problems and showed similarities concerning their economic and social situation. Other authors such as Blake, Mark Twain, Flaubert, Voltaire or Oscar Wilde have been dealing with such topics.

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William Blake and his poem “London”: Short study

Hello (again) …

This article is actually a short biography of William Blake and a quick study of his poem “London”.

Who is William Blake?

William Blake was a British poet and illustrator who lived in the 18th century (before Dickens). His tormented drawings reflected his complex personality. He mainly used dark colors. In 1794 (in the midst of political and economical revolutions), he published his most famous books: “Songs of innocence” and “Songs of experience”. Through those books, the author wanted to show two contrasts in man-kind: on one side the “innocence” -which is the positive part- and on the other the “experience” -which is the (very) pessimistic part-.

In “Songs of experiences”, the main topics are urbanization, poverty, prostitution, social inequalities, the power of the state and church and child labor. Here’s a short study about Blake’s poem : “London” (which is part of the “Songs of experience”).


I wander thro’ each charter’d street,

Near where the charter’d Thames does flow.

And mark in every face I meet

Marks of weakness, marks of woe.


In every cry of every Man,

In every Infants cry of fear,

In every voice: in every ban,

The mind-forg’d manacles I hear


How the Chimney-sweepers cry

Every blackning Church appalls,

And the hapless Soldiers sigh

Runs in blood down Palace walls


But most thro’ midnight streets I hear

How the youthful Harlots curse

Blasts the new-born Infants tear

And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse

Main topics: poverty, prostitution, power of the church and state, child labor.

1) Who does the speaker talk about?

In this poem, men, children, chimney sweepers, soldiers and prostitutes are mentioned. All of them are in deep grief and seem helpless. Sorrow embraces their soul.

2) Which monuments are mentioned here? Who  do they represent? Why?

The author talks about the church : ” blackning Church appalls” representing the monks, priests and pope and the Buckingham Palace: ” Palace walls ” representing the royal family. Those two monuments symbolize the two dominant powers of the 18th century: the power of the church and the power of the state. They are evoked through allegories to  avoid censorship. Indeed, censorship was a very serious matter back then and there was a huge lack of liberty.

3) What image of London is given to us?

A very negative image of London is here displayed. As part of the “Songs of experience”, this poem expresses a lot of sadness, sorrow and despair. The atmosphere is very gloomy. London appears as a dark and dreadful city. We can really feel that the people are suffering. If London was “alive”, it would probably weep …

Some analysis elements:

  • “every” is repeated seven times. It concerns everyone except the royals, the religious cast and the aristocrats.
  • “charter’d” means “chart” (rules you must respect)
  • anaphora of “marks” : poor people are marked by sadness and compared to cattles
  • “cry” : shows the sadness of the people
  • “manacles” : lack of freedom, jail, censorship
  • Stanza 3 : Blake wanted people to start a revolution
  • “Marriage hearse” : A woman who was married was “imprisoned” for  life and then headed to the cimetery

That’s it for this short analysis…It’s not very joyful but we can really see the reality of life in the 18th century in London.


(picture credit: NatMonney deviantart – no copyright infringement intended; for educational purposes)

London during the Elizabethan era

Hey guys, I’m doing a few updates today on this blog…Yes, I’m a little bit behind schedule…

So here’s one about London during the Elizabethan era.


“I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and the stomach of a king, and of a king of England too!” (Queen Elizabeth I)

This era lasted 45 years: from 1558 to 1603. It’s associated to queen Elisabeth I ‘s reign and is often called : “England’s golden age”. Elisabeth has never been considered as legitimate in the eyes of Catholics and many protestants, even though she had received a very good education.

It was a true Renaissance for English literature, poetry and music. Some of the most famous examples are probably Shakespeare (who is sooo amazing, I could spend hours listening to “Hamlet” on my MP3!) and Spencer with the “Faerie Queene”. English verses were filled with a beauty and elegance we had not seen since Chaucer (The father of English literature and an outstanding poet). The cultural heritage left by this era was huge.

There were stark contrasts between the social casts:

– First, there was the queen, representing God on earth

– In second came the nobles and aristocrats

– Then the merchants

– And finally, there were the lower classes.

Religion in the sixteenth century was a quite sensitive case. For some time, persecutions between protestants and catholics weren’t as violent as in previous reigns (Tudors kings and queens weren’t exactly the “tender” type…). However, after the pope’s declaration (which claimed that the queen was a heretic) and several plots to take the queen’s throne, catholics have been severely punished and persecuted.

Some scientific and technological progress’ were also made in astronomy (with Thomas Digges and Thomas Harriot) and the navigation skills greatly improved thanks to Francis Drake and Martin Frobisher.

But…What did London look like during the Elizabethan era?

Well…It wasn’t exactly clean! The streets were narrow, dirty and slippery. The hygiene was literally depressing and an awful smell polluted the air. On the bright side London was a very commercial area! The famous London Bridge was also built back then. (okay, it was the old version but still!)

(picture credit: Mandiemanzano deviantart – no copyright infringement intended; for educational purposes)

Social injustice and segregation in literature

Hey everyone,

Long time no see huh? I have to admit that the blog wasn’t my priority those past few weeks; in fact, my last article was written 106 days ago!

So here’s a little update…FINAL_CRIT_PLEASE_by_photografever

Last week, we started working on a new subject : “The author in his century”. At every english literature class, we are supposed to present a topic based on this theme. We need to answer one question : “Can an author influence social changes?”

Last Friday’s topic was: “Social injustice and segregation in literature”. Here’s a little  historical recap on the American-African history:

frise chronologique segregation

(Click on the picture if you want it larger!)

Many authors and songwriters have dealt with this topic and among them are Toni Morrison and Abel Meeropol.

Toni Morrison:

Toni_MorrisonThe American novelist was born on the 18th February 1931 in Ohio. She graduated from the Howard university with a B.A. in English and earned a master of arts in English at the Cornell University as well as a doctorate in Letters from several universities, including Oxford. After her divorce with Harold Morrison, she moved to New York and became a teacher and an editor. In 1970, she wrote her first novel: “The bluest eye” while raising her two children. She also published “Sula” in 1973 which was nominated for the National Book Award and “Song of Solomon” in 1977 which caught the attention of the entire nation. In 1987, “Beloved” was an undeniable success and  was considered as a masterpiece. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize For Fiction and the American Book Award. It was also turned into a movie in 1998 starring Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover. Toni Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993.

Other novels: “Tar baby” (1981), “Jazz” (1992), “Paradise” (1997), “Love” (2003), “A mercy” (2008), “Home” (2012). (Her books are mainly about black women.)

(If you are interested in this author, why not take a look at the Tony Morrison society?)


Beloved is the story of Sethe and her daughter Denver. Sethe, the mother, used to be a slave in “Sweet Home”. After running away from the plantation, she raised her four kids (Two boys, Denver and a baby girl) in Cincinnati with the help of Baby Suggs , the grandmother. But soon, a threat appears; her master, Schoolteacher, is after her and wants to take her children away. That’s when the tragedy occurs: when Sethe kills her baby girl to protect her from being enslaved. Ever since, the guilt and sadness have haunted her. She lives on with bitter memories and a sorrowful heart. She won’t ever forget. One day, a strange girl arrives and awakens the past… Her name is “Beloved”.

Here’s an extract (Chapter 1):

I24 WAS SPITEFUL. Full of a baby’s venom. The women in the house knew it and so did the children. For years each put up with the spite in his own way, but by 1873 Sethe and her daughter Denver were its only victims. The grandmother, Baby Suggs, was dead, and the sons, Howard and Buglar, had run away by the time they were thirteen years old–as soon as merely looking in a mirror shattered it (that was the signal for Buglar); as soon as two tiny band prints appeared in the cake (that was it for Howard). Neither boy waited to see more; another kettleful of chickpeas smoking in a heap on the floor; soda crackers crumbled and strewn in a line next to the doorsill. Nor did they wait for one of the relief periods: the weeks, months even, when nothing was disturbed. No. Each one fled at once–the moment the house committed what was for him the one insult not to be borne or witnessed a second time. Within two months, in the dead of winter, leaving their grandmother, Baby Suggs; Sethe, their mother; and their little sister, Denver, all by themselves in the gray and white house on Bluestone Road. It didn’t have a number then, because Cincinnati didn’t stretch that far. In fact, Ohio had been calling itself a state only seventy years when first one brother and then the next stuffed quilt packing into his hat, snatched up his shoes, and crept away from the lively spite the house felt for them.

Abel Meeropol:

meeropol abel This American teacher and songwriter was born on the 10th February 1903 in New York city. He is mainly famous for his poem “Strange fruit” written in 1937 after the lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith. It was published in “The new Masses” under the pseudonym of Lewis Allan and was sung by Billie Holiday in 1939. Abel Meeropol also wrote “The house I live in” and “Apple, peaches and cherries”. In the sixties, he adopted Michael and Robert Meeropol, the sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. The songwriter died on October 30, 1986.

Strange fruit:

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

The “Strange fruit” is a metaphor the author uses to talk about the bodies of black people hung in trees. The allusion goes on until the end when the author shows his true feeling about these “fruits” : “strange and bitter crop”. The song has received many honors: It was elected best song of the century by the “Times” and was added in 2002 to the National Recording registry. Want to listen to it? Click here!

Toni Morrison and Abel Meeropol have had (and still have!) a huge impact on society and became an inspiration to many people. Through their works which became symbols, they could express the horror and the unfairness of social injustice and segregation. Words have power, and they sure knew it!

(picture credit: Photografever deviantart – no copyright infringement intended; for educational purposes)