Slave narratives by definition are actual accounts of slaves that were recorded to convey to the reader to perils of slavery. Some say that Toni Morrison's Beloved was written similarly to slave narrative, showing the reader Sethe's pains of being a slave and the ongoing pain she suffers being free. Although thematically Beloved is much like a slave narrative, stylistically it is not comparable.
Before comparing Morrison's novel to that of a slave narrative it is first important to understand what exact constitutes a slave narrative. Most narratives were recorded after the Civil War and were first hand accounts of the lives of slaves. They focused generally on the pain of slavery and the hardships they had to overcome. They were simple, plain and to the point. Omitting a plot structure, a slave narrative was only fact. A slave narrative was not a novel, however they give writers an idea of "what it was really like." Dr. Lori Askeland wrote "From the [slave] narrative came the spirit and vitality and angle of vision responsible for the most effective prose writing by black American writers." .
The themes in Beloved are very similar to that of a slave narrative. Sethe, the protagonist, had experienced life as a slave, and it is obvious Morrison thoroughly studied accounts of former slaves before writing the novel. The first theme presented in the book is pain and sadness. The novel begins "124 was spiteful. Full of a baby's venom." Focusing on the grief of a slave baby, Morrison conveys to the reader right away that slavery brought only suffering to blacks. Later on in the novel Sethe comments on her experiences of being a slave in a series of flashbacks. Her lashings and beatings are all accounted for in graphic passages. Morrison constantly focuses on pain in order to keep a background theme in the readers mind throughout the novel. The focus on pain is very similar to that of a slave narrative.