Procne in Toni Morrison’s Beloved


Sethe Suggs, the protagonist in Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved, is often compared to Medea. The same analogy with the Colchian princess was often made by contemporaries in relation to Margaret Garner, the historical person on whose life the novel is loosely based. An enslaved African-American woman in the mid-nineteenth century, Garner killed her own daughter after being found by her former owner and was styled a ‘Modern Medea’ in the press. Despite Morrison’s dislike of the comparison as well as its obvious asymmetries, it has become so prominent in recent scholarship on Beloved that it tends to eclipse other elements of classical mythology in the novel. This article explores the hermeneutic productivity of reading Sethe’s infanticide against the backdrop of the myth of Procne and Philomela.