If you aren’t American, there’s a fair likelihood you’ve never heard of the next Rejected Princess: Beloved, from Toni Morrison’s novel of the same name.
Beloved is the story of Sethe, a freed slave in post-Civil War era Cincinnati (and Kentucky). In order to keep her two-year-old daughter from slavers, she ends up slitting the baby’s throat, killing her. Fast forward about a decade, and Sethe is living a fairly settled and peaceful life, when she stumbles upon a beautiful young woman, who appears confused, homeless, and and halfway drowned. This is Beloved.
Book spoilers ahead.
Sethe begins to see it, basically losing everyone in her life in capitulating to the increasingly erratic whims of her spectral houseguest. Eventually Sethe’s other daughter, Denver, arrives with a posse to exorcise Beloved from the house. A fracas ensues (Sethe stabs a white man that Denver brought along — it’s complicated), and Beloved disappears in the process.
The book is about a lot of things, but primarily the effects of slavery on one’s mind — Sethe is trying to make a clean start, but coming up with a new personality as an adult, while keeping her past sealed away from memory, proves too difficult for her to manage. As a result, she’s literally haunted by her past.
You should read it. It’s a great book, even if I did just spoil all of it for you. Not good for kids though.
- The dress is very loosely based off of one that she wears in the movie adaptation. It may not be super period-appropriate, but I liked how it came out, so I kept it.
- Beloved has a tiny, hard-to-see scar on her neck. It’s there, I swear!
- She is tossing rotten roses on her own gravestone (which was pink). Rotten roses are a motif throughout the book.
- The mist behind her is built up a bit more, to give her a faint ethereal glow.
- The mountains in the background are based off a picture of the Black Mountain area in eastern Kentucky.
- The tree is a chokecherry tree, also a motif from the book: the scars on Sethe’s back from being whipped are said to make the pattern of a chokecherry tree.