Beloved

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Sethe Character Analysis

The main character of the novel, Sethe is an enslaved woman who first smuggles her two older boys to freedom and then escapes with her own baby girl children to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1855. A determined and strong character, she flees Sweet Home while pregnant with Denver and, once in Cincinnati, works to run the household of 124. Prior to the beginning of the novel, Sethe killed her own child when her former master, Schoolteacher, came to take her and her children back to work as slaves. In 1873, Sethe tries to make a new life with Paul D and then with Beloved, but is eventually overcome by Beloved and her painful past. By the end of the novel, she seems to have lost her mind, but also seems to have escaped Beloved’s haunting of her.

Sethe Quotes in Beloved

The Beloved quotes below are all either spoken by Sethe or refer to Sethe. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Slavery Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of Beloved published in 2004.
Part 1, Chapter 1 Quotes

“How come everybody run off from Sweet Home can’t stop talking about it? Look like if it was so sweet you would have stayed.”
[...]
Paul D laughed. “True, true. [Denver’s] right, Sethe. It wasn’t sweet and it sure wasn’t home.” He shook his head.
“But it’s where we were,” said Sethe. “All together. Comes back whether we want it to or not.”

Related Characters: Sethe (speaker), Denver (speaker), Paul D (speaker)
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

Denver is perturbed by Paul D's arrival and his conversations with Sethe. She interrogates them about their discussion of Sweet Home, to which they respond that the place continues to exert powerful control over their lives.

This exchange establishes the fraught relationship these characters have to the plantation from which they have escaped. Although the location signifies cruel memories, it is also part of Sethe’s personal history, as well as the communal history created among all the slaves who worked there. Her simple constructions—“it’s where we were” and “all together”—make the incontestable argument that the plantation functioned much like a home does. It played the same narrative and psychological role for these characters, whether they want it to or not, and thus it returns consistently in their interactions and lives.

As an outsider, Denver is unable to make sense of this pattern. Her distanced viewpoint allows her to notice, for instance, the irony in the plantation’s name itself. She thus stands for the role of a second generation of ex-slaves, as well as for the contemporary reader, who might be confused about why the plantation serves to connect Sethe and Paul D. Morrison thus points to a disjoint between these two generational perspectives: one that feels a continued link to the plantation and one that cannot make sense of that very link.

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Part 1, Chapter 2 Quotes

[...] in all of Baby’s life, as well as Sethe’s own, men and women were moved around like checkers. Anybody Baby Suggs knew, let alone loved, who hadn’t run off or been hanged, got rented out, loaned out, bought up, brought back, stored up, mortgaged, won, stolen or seized. So Baby’s eight children had six fathers. What she called the nastiness of life was the shock she received upon learning that nobody stopped playing checkers just because the pieces included her children.

Related Characters: Sethe, Baby Suggs
Page Number: 27-28
Explanation and Analysis:

Sethe ruminates on her life and the lives of other slaves back at Sweet Home. She explains here that those lives have generally been lived at the whims of other people: white slave owners.

That people “were moved around like checkers” shows how in slavery, humans were treated like pieces in a game—objects to be manipulated rather than given real care or dignity. The following series of verbs are presented in similarly passive constructions: “been hanged, got rented out […]” that place the subjects in roles lacking actual control. It presents their lives as subject to external forces rather than constituted by personal agency. When Sethe links this passivity to the paternity of Baby Suggs’ children, she implies that the men Baby Suggs loved were all taken away from her as part of that checkers game “called the nastiness of life.”

Her realization that children function as “pieces” in this game is particularly disheartening. Baby Suggs presumably assumed that children would be given a separate and safe dispensation away from these manipulative tactics, but in fact they are treated equally ruthlessly. This theme of a perverted childhood and motherhood will reverberate throughout Beloved: Morrison underlines how the cruelty and dehumanization of slavery was applied regardless of one’s innocence or weakness.

Part 1, Chapter 3 Quotes

Some things go. Pass on. Some things just stay. I used to think it was my rememory.... Places, places are still there.

Related Characters: Sethe (speaker)
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:

Denver is moved by the sight of a praying Sethe’s white dress, and she thinks of the story of her birth. When she asks Sethe what she was doing, Sethe reflects on the endurance of both memory and actual places.

Sethe makes two important distinctions on the permanence of certain aspects of life. The first is between things that “go” and things that “stay”: Certain events or people, she implies, are transitory while others maintain a permanent presence in her life. In making this distinction, she responds to Denver’s earlier skepticism on her and Paul D’s interest in Sweet Home, asserting that the past continues to play a significant role in the present. Selecting the term “rememory” instead of “memory” underlines its repetitive quality, demonstrating that a particularly strong memory recreates events in the present instead of merely observing them from a distance.

At this point, both the reader and Denver would presume that Sethe is speaking of memory—that memory allows things to “just stay.” But Sethe directly disarms this point, rejecting that “it was my rememory” and instead asserting the continued endurance of “places.” She thus affirms that what stays can be corporeal and physical instead of just psychological—a point that can be applied to her scarred body, to the building 124, and of course to the character of Beloved herself.

As for Denver, the job Sethe had of keeping her from the past that was still waiting for her was all that mattered.

Related Characters: Sethe, Denver
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

Sethe ponders a potential future with Paul D, but notes that Denver must be her first priority. She worries about how her slave past may affect Denver’s future.

This passage inverts a traditional linear time-scale, for it positions “the past” to be “waiting” for Denver as if it is in fact in her future. Sethe has already spoken of the way the past can play a continued role in the present, but here she takes the claim one step further—observing that it can also affect the future. As a result, the past takes on qualities of aggression, even violence—things from which a child must be kept. That protecting Denver from these memories “was all that mattered” shows Sethe’s singularity of purpose: even as Paul D might allow her to engage with the present and future, her focus remains entirely on keeping the past from her child. (Ironically, this obsession makes Sethe herself deeply imbedded in the past.) Morrison thus shows how memory provides not only a continued struggle for an individual person, but also affects the ability of communities and new generations to live independent of previous atrocities.

Part 1, Chapter 6 Quotes

Sethe learned the profound satisfaction Beloved got from storytelling. It amazed Sethe... because every mention of her past life hurt.... But, as she began telling about the earrings, she found herself wanting to, liking it. Perhaps it was Beloved’s distance from the events itself, or her thirst for hearing it—in any case it was an unexpected pleasure.

Related Characters: Sethe, Beloved
Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:

When Sethe recounts the tale of her earrings, she is surprised at how much the story pleases Beloved. She wonders why they relate to her memories so differently.

This passage returns to the theme of how the past continues to affect the present. Here, “storytelling” connects earlier memories to a current interaction—which is precisely what Sethe wished to avoid for both herself and for Denver. As a result, she is surprised that Beloved gains “profound satisfaction” from the tales: a combination of words that implies not only pleasure but also a deeper sense of meaning. More intriguing still, this enjoyment transfers from Beloved back to Sethe, from listener back to storyteller.

The precise significance of this transfer remains somewhat unclear. On the one hand, it might cast Beloved as helping heal Sethe—as providing a way for her to reconcile her past and find an “unexpected pleasure” in what has formerly haunted her. A more skeptical reading, however, would see in Beloved’s “thirst” a level of manipulation that painfully brings an unwanted past into the present. One way to resolve the tension might be to see how Sethe attributes Beloved’s enjoyment to her “distance from the events itself.” This line points to the reliance of storytelling on a certain detachment from what is being told: perhaps by forming a narrative of her past, Sethe is able to acquire her own distance from the events, to become an audience for her own story like Beloved.

She threw them all away but you. The one from the crew she threw away on the island. The others from more whites she also threw away. Without names, she threw them. You she gave the name of the black man... Telling you. I am telling you, small girl Sethe.

Related Characters: Sethe
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

Sethe recounts a story a woman Nan told her about Sethe's mother. When the two were crossing from Africa on a slave-boat, Sethe’s mother was raped repeatedly by white men, and she "threw away" all the children except for Sethe.

This tale sets up a cyclic quality to time in this novel, in which past events are repeated throughout different generations. Just as Sethe killed Beloved, we learn that her mother had killed many of her own children—selecting only one to save, just as Sethe only saved Denver. The abandoned children were similarly nameless, thus establishing the giving of names as a significant plot event. Furthermore, both Sethe’s and Sethe’s mother’s stories are characterized by migration: the first from Good Home, the second from Africa. By placing in parallel their two tales, Morrison shows how social conditions can cause similar histories to appear throughout generations. Although Sethe’s tale might seem to imply the progress of emancipation, she is still beholden to the symbolic terrors that crippled her mother.

Part 1, Chapter 7 Quotes

[Sethe] shook her head from side to side, resigned to her rebellious brain. Why was there nothing it refused? No misery, no regret, no hateful picture too rotten to accept? Like a greedy child it snatched up everything. Just once, could it say, No thank you?

Related Characters: Sethe
Page Number: 82-83
Explanation and Analysis:

Paul D has just told Sethe that Halle saw her being attacked by the white men back at Sweet Home. In response, Sethe despairs that her memories refuse her attempts at controlling them.

This passage develops a model of deeply involuntary memory. Whereas Sethe wishes to control her relationship to the past, she finds herself stuck with “her rebellious brain.” She wonders why it indiscriminately incorporates all information: nothing is “refused,” and all is permissible “to accept.” That memory can never say “No thank you” means that it can never be shut out of the present moment. Though Sethe earnestly wishes to control her relationship to the past, these tales continue to play an active role beyond her control.

Likening memory to “a greedy child” is a poignant simile. First, it corroborates the way that Beloved functions to induce Sethe's memory—both in that she reminds Sethe of Sweet Home and in that she greedily asks her to recount stories of her past. If before, Beloved’s inquisitive nature seemed to offer a positive way for Sethe to relate to her past, here the connection to “greedy child” casts it in a less favorable light. Beloved becomes, then, a metaphor for memory’s uncontrollable and ravenous nature—the way it can prey on one’s current psychology.

Part 1, Chapter 10 Quotes

It was some time before he could put Alfred, Georgia, Sixo, schoolteacher, Halle, his brothers, Sethe, Mister, the taste of iron, the sight of butter, the smell of hickory, notebook paper, one by one, into the tobacco tin lodged in his chest. By the time he got to 124 nothing in this world could pry it open.

Related Characters: Sethe, Paul D, Sixo
Related Symbols: Paul D’s Tobacco Tin
Page Number: 133
Explanation and Analysis:

Paul D describes his journey after escaping from the chain gang. He imagines placing memories into a tobacco tin in his chest, leaving them stored away and inaccessible.

This passage offers one example of how ex-slaves sought to confront their harrowing pasts. Here, Paul D’s strategy is to firmly seal off those memories in a metaphorical tobacco tin. He applies this process indiscriminately—to the cruel “schoolteacher” just as to his lover “Sethe” and to sensory images like butter and hickory. In contrast to the passage in which Sethe railed against how memory’s involuntary nature could easily overwhelm her, Paul D seems to maintain an impressive mastery over his mind.

Yet at the same time, Morrison hints at the fickle and uncontrollable nature of memory. In seeking to control his memories, Paul D must also sever himself from the positive ones. We should pause, similarly, at the image of the “tobacco tin.” Tobacco was one of the original crops grown by slave plantations in the United States, so the tin also serves as an implicit reference to the institution imprisoning Paul D. While this passage might seem to praise Paul D for his precise control over his past, the text both foreshadows that the tin will indeed be someday "pried open" and hints that Paul D's procedure of gaining this control may itself be deeply troubling.

Part 1, Chapter 18 Quotes

And if [Sethe] thought anything, it was No. No. Nono. Nonono. Simple. She just flew. Collected every bit of life she had made, all the parts of her that were precious and fine and beautiful, and carried, pushed, dragged them through the veil, out, away, over there where no one else could hurt them. Over there. Outside this place, where they would be safe.

Related Characters: Sethe, Denver, Beloved
Page Number: 192
Explanation and Analysis:

Paul D confronts Sethe about murdering her child. During their discussion, she tells this story of her escape from Sweet Home.

Morrison juxtaposes two forms of potential action: a well-reasoned escape plan in which the route has been rationally conceptualized; and the haphazard, desperate style characterized of Sethe. Indeed, Sethe's mindset here does not seem to revolve around “thought” at all, but rather the absence of thought—the blunt rejection of “No” that grows and replicates itself into “Nonono.” We have little insight into Sethe’s thought process, for her journey lacks a coherent direction, a clear set of objects that she saves, or even a certain destination. Instead, she maintains the vague goal of “outside,” similarly defined in terms of negation, as was the “No.”

The language of this passage mimics Sethe’s style of thought. Composed of short fragments, it avoids normal, fluent syntax in order to place the reader in the mind of someone making stressed and disordered decisions. It is as if Sethe is trying to convince the reader of her disorientation just as she tries to convince Paul D. And Morrison thus makes sensible to us what might have motivated a series of decisions by Sethe. In particular, she demonstrates how deeply one’s psychology can be warped by the experiences of slavery—to the extent that one may even murder their own child as an act of intended love.

Part 2, Chapter 19 Quotes

I can forget it all now because as soon as I got the gravestone in place you made your presence known in the house and worried us all to distraction. I didn’t understand it then. I thought you were mad with me. And now I know that if you was, you ain’t now because you came back here to me... I only need to know one thing. How bad is the scar?

Related Characters: Sethe (speaker), Beloved
Page Number: 217
Explanation and Analysis:

After her skating outing with Denver and Beloved, Sethe grows increasingly convinced that Beloved is the spirit of her dead child. She ponders here how her dead spirit haunted 124.

This passage displays Sethe trying to reconcile with her memories—and to make sense of how past experiences exist alongside current ones. For instance, the new meaningful times with Beloved and Denver have caused her to “forget it all now,” thus distancing herself from the past. Similarly, she “didn’t understand it then,” but the past does have a more sensible nature when now considered in retrospect. It seems that Sethe is finally able to reconcile with her own guilt, believing that Beloved is not angry “because you came back here to me.” Thus her presence as a pseudo-child seems to recreate and to narrativize Sethe’s past.

These descriptions present Sethe as gaining greater clarity into her past based on her current moments with Beloved. But Morrison also implies that Beloved’s presence may be causing Sethe to sink inappropriately into the past—in a way that cripples her ability to progress into the future. Her singular focus on the “one thing” of the scar, for instance, speaks to emotional nearsightedness, which we also see in the way she has abandoned Paul D to be only with Beloved. Morrison thus shows how the symbolic return of the past has a double meaning: It can both order and obscure the present.

I was about to turn around and keep on my way to where the muslin was, when I heard [Schoolteacher] say, “No, no. That’s not the way. I told you to put her human characteristics on the left; her animal ones on the right. And don’t forget to line them up.”

Related Characters: Sethe (speaker), Sethe, Schoolteacher
Page Number: 228
Explanation and Analysis:

Sethe continues to involuntarily recall different events from Sweet Home. She cites a memory of Schoolteacher instructing his nephew, writing down lists of her human and animal characteristics.

This moment portrays the way slaveowners would make use of horrific and dehumanizing practices, as well as the pseudoscience they used to justify the institution itself. The Schoolteacher and his nephew have the semblance of scientific study through lining up attributes in a scientific manner. Yet their work horrifically demeans Sethe, reducing her human complexity to a series of bullet points. That one of those atomized lists is composed of “animal” characteristics is even more hideous: it shows that they believed slaves like her to only be partially human, to the extent that the non-human characteristics could be distilled through sufficient analysis.

That Sethe overhears this while asking for “muslin” is particularly ironic: muslin is a cotton cloth that would, of course, be only the concern of humans. Furthermore, the schoolteacher’s nephew is notably mis-ordering the lists, and thus presumably intellectually lacking even as he describes Sethe's intellectual inferiority. Thus even in the moment when the Schoolteacher dehumanizes Sethe, her actions and the text itself make a small effort to restore that humanity.

Part 2, Chapter 20 Quotes

Beloved, she my daughter. She mine.... She had to be safe and I put her where she would be. But my love was tough and she back now. I knew she would be.... I won’t never let her go.

Related Characters: Sethe (speaker), Beloved
Page Number: 236
Explanation and Analysis:

The novel has entered a pure stream-of-consciousness style at this point. Sethe repeatedly describes her deep love of Beloved and how that affection motivated her actions.

These lines reiterate that Sethe’s infanticide was the result of her deep love for Beloved. The action is phrased not even as a choice, but rather as a necessity given the circumstances: “She had to be safe.” In this way, Sethe seeks to justify her action not as the best choice given a set of circumstances, but indeed as the only one that could have been made. Morrison thus demonstrates how horrifically the definitions of safety and love have been warped under the specter of slavery: Love can be exemplified by murder, and safety is equated with death.

Yet the careful reader should not take this text at face value. Morrison uses halting statements and fragmented phrases to emphasize the lack of clarity in Sethe’s thought process. Further, her repeated use of possessives—“she my”; “she mine”; “my love”—present the mother-daughter relationship as deeply controlling, even obsessive. The moral compass in Morrison’s work is never entirely clear, and the text makes no clear pronouncement on Sethe’s actions. Thus even as she makes a compelling argument for how love motivated her behavior, parts of the stream-of-consciousness writing itself undermine the validity of that position.

Part 2, Chapter 24 Quotes

Remembering his own price, down to the cent, that schoolteacher was able to get for him, [Paul D] wondered what Sethe’s would have been. What had Baby Suggs’ been? How much did Halle owe, still, besides his labor? What did Mrs. Garner get for Paul F? More than nine hundred dollars? How much more? Ten dollars? Twenty?

Related Characters: Sethe, Paul D, Halle
Page Number: 269
Explanation and Analysis:

Still consumed by memories of Sweet Home, Paul D wonders about the economics of slavery. He starts to brainstorm the costs that might have been paid for other slaves on the plantation.

This description emphasizes once more the dehumanizing way that slaveowners interacted with their slaves. Whereas earlier descriptions pointed out how slaves were likened to animals, this passages views them as commodities for sale. That each person can be affixed with a certain price point condenses their identity into a single interchangeable number. Even more insidiously, this mindset seems to have infiltrated Paul D. He takes on the language and perspective of the slaveowners here—indeed, applying it to his closest family and friends. Thus Morrison not only portrays the existence of this horrifying economic mindset, but also shows how easily it can infiltrate the minds of even the slaves it oppresses, so that they develop inferiority complexes and think of themselves as commodities to be priced.

Part 3, Chapter 26 Quotes

Yet [Denver] knew Sethe’s greatest fear was...that Beloved might leave.... Leave before Sethe could make her realize that far worse than [death]...was what Baby Suggs died of, what Ella knew, what Stamp saw and what made Paul D tremble. That anybody white could take your whole self for anything that came to mind. Not just work, kill, or maim you, but dirty you. Dirty you so bad you couldn’t like yourself anymore. Dirty you so bad you forgot who you were and couldn’t think it up.

Related Characters: Sethe, Denver, Baby Suggs, Paul D, Beloved, Stamp Paid, Ella
Page Number: 295
Explanation and Analysis:

As life at 124 grows ever worse, Denver reflects on what is motivating Sethe to acquiesce to Beloved’s wishes. Sethe, she explains, wants to prove to Beloved that her infanticide offered her a better end than she would have had alive under slavery.

This passage casts Sethe’s relationship with Beloved in a somewhat different light than before. Whereas earlier sections justified her actions as derived from pure affection, this passage presents them as seeking some kind of repentance or justice. That Sethe wants Beloved to “realize” that another fate (slavery) was “far worse” reveals a wish for acceptance and forgiveness on Beloved’s part. She wants her, in a bizarre way, to understand the horror of an alternative past that she never experienced—in order that Sethe's decision will be deemed merciful and the result of love.

Denver’s focus on the loss of identity is intriguing here. She presents the worst end of slavery as that one “forgot who you were and couldn’t think it up,” which speaks to how mentally fractured Sethe had become by the time she fled Sweet Home. Yet if Sethe had sought to save Beloved from this fate, she also has caused it to come true: if Beloved is indeed the ghost of her child, she lost her identity and came blindly to Sethe without a clear sense of self. Morrison thus presents the murder less as a real escape from the institution of slavery, but rather as a reproduction of its horrifying ends.

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Sethe Character Timeline in Beloved

The timeline below shows where the character Sethe appears in Beloved. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 1
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
...of a baby’s venom.” The house is haunted by the ghost of the baby of Sethe, a former slave who lives at 124 with her daughter, Denver. They have lived in... (full context)
Motherhood Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Shortly after Baby Suggs’ death, Sethe and Denver attempt to call forth the ghost to talk to it, but it does... (full context)
Slavery Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
Sethe remembers once suggesting to Baby Suggs that they could move out of the house to... (full context)
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Sethe goes outside and is surprised to find Paul D, an ex-slave who also worked on... (full context)
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
...of presence and asks, “What kind of evil you got in here?” He reflects on Sethe’s beauty and recalls how her children had been sneaked out of Sweet Home and sent... (full context)
Slavery Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Community Theme Icon
Sethe tells Paul D that the sad presence he feels in the house is from her... (full context)
Home Theme Icon
As Sethe and Denver start to prepare dinner, Denver makes a rude remark to Paul D and... (full context)
Slavery Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Sethe makes reference to having a tree on her back. Paul D asks her what she... (full context)
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
Alone in the kitchen with Paul D, Sethe puts biscuits into the oven. Paul D comes up behind her and embraces her. As... (full context)
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
After the house settles down, Denver takes the biscuits onto the porch and eats, while Sethe and Paul D go upstairs. Alone, she thinks of her brothers and remembers her young... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 2
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Sethe and Paul go upstairs and enter her bedroom. After brief sex, they are too shy... (full context)
Slavery Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
Sethe thinks of Sweet Home and working in the kitchen there. She thinks of how slavery... (full context)
Slavery Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Paul D thinks of how he had fantasized about Sethe on Sweet Home and how the actual consummation of that desire has failed to live... (full context)
Slavery Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Sethe and Paul D each separately remember when Sethe and Halle had sex out in the... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 3
Home Theme Icon
...sought refuge. Once, when she was returning to 124 from the boxwood room, Denver saw Sethe through a bedroom window, praying. A white dress was kneeling next to Sethe, with its... (full context)
Motherhood Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
The dress embracing Sethe reminds Denver of the story of her own birth. As Sethe has told her, she... (full context)
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Thinking about the story of Amy, Denver enters 124 and tells Sethe about the dress she saw. She asks Sethe what she was praying for and Sethe... (full context)
Slavery Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Denver asks Sethe about Sweet Home. Sethe tells her about Schoolteacher, who came to the plantation after Mr.... (full context)
Home Theme Icon
...the haunting of their house, but now Paul D has scared the baby’s ghost away. Sethe thinks about Denver’s idea that the baby has plans. She reflects that she does not... (full context)
Home Theme Icon
Looking around one of the rooms of the house, Sethe notices that it is completely devoid of color except for two orange squares on one... (full context)
Motherhood Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Paul D tells Sethe that he can look for work around 124 and she tells him that he can... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 4
Slavery Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
...one night, Denver asks Paul D how long he’s going to “hang around”, which upsets Sethe. Paul asks if he should leave, but Sethe tells him not to. Denver leaves the... (full context)
Slavery Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
Paul D tells Sethe that he will stay at 124 and help her, but she has to talk to... (full context)
Home Theme Icon
The three go to the carnival. Sethe dresses up as much as she can for the occasion, but Denver is sullen. As... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 5
Motherhood Theme Icon
...described as having “new skin”. She sits down on a stump outside of 124, where Sethe, Denver, and Paul D find her upon returning from the carnival. Immediately upon seeing the... (full context)
Slavery Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
...wandering and traveling after the Civil War, trying to find family or a better life. Sethe tries to talk to Beloved, but Beloved falls asleep, exhausted. (full context)
Home Theme Icon
Sethe and Paul D think Beloved is sick with cholera, but Denver defiantly says that she... (full context)
Motherhood Theme Icon
...as honey, sugarcane, candy, and lemonade. She doesn’t seem to know where she came from. Sethe guesses that her fever robbed her of her memory. Paul D is suspicious of the... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 6
Motherhood Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
Beloved is devoted to paying Sethe attention. She waits for her in the kitchen in the morning and goes to meet... (full context)
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
One night, Beloved asks Sethe where her diamonds are. Sethe is confused, but then realizes that Beloved is asking about... (full context)
Slavery Theme Icon
Sethe tells Beloved that she got the earrings from Mrs. Garner when she married Halle. She... (full context)
Slavery Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
One day, as Sethe is unbraiding Denver’s hair, Beloved asks if Sethe’s mother ever did her hair. Sethe says... (full context)
Slavery Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
One time, Sethe’s mother took her behind the smokehouse and showed her a mark burnt into her skin... (full context)
Slavery Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Sethe suddenly remembers something she had forgotten: a woman called Nan had pulled her away from... (full context)
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Sethe ends her story and Denver realizes that she hates the stories that do not have... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 7
Slavery Theme Icon
...to Paul D. He is bothered by the fact that she arrived just as he, Sethe, and Denver seemed to be getting along together. (full context)
Home Theme Icon
...Beloved to her room, excited to share the room with her. Alone, Paul D and Sethe discuss Beloved. Paul D says he doesn’t understand why Sethe continues to feed and house... (full context)
Slavery Theme Icon
As Sethe and Paul D argue, the conversation shifts to Halle. Paul D tells her that Halle... (full context)
Slavery Theme Icon
Sethe is shaken by this revelation. She is upset that Halle saw the whole thing and... (full context)
Slavery Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Sethe is overwhelmed by this new addition to her traumatic memory and wishes she could refuse... (full context)
Slavery Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Sethe offers to listen if Paul D should want to talk about having the bit in... (full context)
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Paul D doesn’t tell Sethe anything more about the experience of having the bit. He keeps the rest of the... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 8
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
...the people’s names. She says she came to 124 from a large bridge, searching for Sethe and hoping to see her face. She saw Sethe’s earrings in the water of the... (full context)
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Denver asks Beloved never to leave and then asks her not to tell Sethe who she is. This makes Beloved angry; she says that she doesn’t want to be... (full context)
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
The narration jumps into Denver’s story: Amy has found Sethe, who tells Amy that her name is Lu. Amy cares for her and sees the... (full context)
Slavery Theme Icon
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Sethe thinks that the baby she’s pregnant with (Denver) must be dead. She limps to the... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 9
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Sethe can’t stop thinking about Halle going mad. She misses Baby Suggs and wishes that she... (full context)
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...bad at 124, though, Baby Suggs lost her faith and stopped preaching. Missing Baby Suggs, Sethe decides to take Denver and Beloved with her to the Clearing. (full context)
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When the three arrive at the Clearing, Sethe feels just as she did when Amy left her on the bank of the river.... (full context)
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Now, at the Clearing, Sethe goes to Baby Suggs’ old preaching rock and wishes Baby Suggs were there to rub... (full context)
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Beloved points out bruises on Sethe’s neck and rubs them soothingly, then starts to kiss Sethe’s neck. Sethe is carried away... (full context)
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Upon returning to 124, Sethe finds Paul D bathing. Realizing how much she wants him in her life, she embraces... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 11
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...process begins one night when he sleeps in a rocking chair rather than upstairs with Sethe. He begins to sleep downstairs in the chair every night. (full context)
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...the urge to leave a home before, but this is different, since he still loves Sethe and wants to stay. Once tired of the storeroom, he begins sleeping outside in the... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 12
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Denver loves it when Beloved looks at her and prizes her attention. Sethe asks Beloved about her past, but all Beloved can remember is crossing a bridge. Sethe... (full context)
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By contrast, Denver thinks that Beloved is the white dress that knelt next to Sethe, some presence of the dead baby. Denver tells Beloved about Baby Suggs, Howard, and Buglar.... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 13
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Paul D resolves to tell Sethe about what’s been happening and goes to meet her at the restaurant where she works.... (full context)
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Sethe and Paul D walk back to 124. It begins to snow and they start to... (full context)
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One night, Sethe finally says something about Paul D sleeping in the cold house and tells him to... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 14
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That night, after Paul D and Sethe leave the dinner table and go upstairs, Denver and Beloved talk. Denver says that Sethe... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 15
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The novel flashes back to Baby Suggs waiting for Sethe and Halle to make it to 124 from Sweet Home. She is delighted to see... (full context)
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Stamp Paid visits soon after Sethe’s arrival and, seeing her healthy baby, goes to a nearby stream and gathers blackberries, bringing... (full context)
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...where to write to and eventually gives up. But things work out decently well, as Sethe and her children make it to 124, up until her celebration “that put Christmas to... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 16
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...to 124—Schoolteacher, his nephew, a slave catcher, and a sheriff. They have come to take Sethe and her children back to Sweet Home. (full context)
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The four go around to the shed and find Sethe and her children standing by a hand saw. Sethe is holding a dead, bloody child... (full context)
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Baby Suggs takes Sethe’s sons away from her and tries to get the dead baby from her, but Sethe... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 17
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...Paid and Paul D both work, Stamp Paid shows Paul D a news clipping about Sethe killing her child. Paul D doesn’t believe it’s her. Stamp Paid tells him about the... (full context)
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Stamp Paid plans to tell Paul D about the day Sethe killed her child, how the four horseman arrived and she recognized Schoolteacher and gathered her... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 18
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When he gets back to 124, Paul D confronts Sethe about the news clipping. Sethe avoids the subject, telling him about her children and how... (full context)
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Sethe tells Paul D about her escape from Sweet Home, and how she did it by... (full context)
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Finally, Sethe tells Paul D that she stopped Schoolteacher from taking her children, saying, “I took and... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 19
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...to 124 was to take Baby Suggs away to be buried. At Baby Suggs’ funeral, Sethe was silent and did not join in the hymns, offending the other mourners. As he... (full context)
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Meanwhile, Sethe is trying to move on without Paul D, who she feels has abandoned her like... (full context)
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...again, remembering how Baby Suggs became exhausted and stopped her gatherings at the clearing after Sethe killed her baby. He had tried to persuade her not to give up her gatherings... (full context)
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The morning after the skating trip, Sethe thinks that the hand-holding shadows she saw on the day of the carnival were not... (full context)
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Sethe thinks that Beloved knows and understands everything about her past. She remembers burying her child,... (full context)
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Stamp Paid finally works up the nerve to knock on Sethe’s door, but no one answers. He sees Beloved through a window. He tells Ella that... (full context)
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Sethe is late to work. She takes food back home from the restaurant, which reminds her... (full context)
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Sethe remembers more about Sweet Home. Schoolteacher measured the slaves and counted their teeth, as if... (full context)
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Sethe remembers talking to Halle about Schoolteacher, asking if he thought Schoolteacher was different from Mr.... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 20
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This chapter follows Sethe’s stream of consciousness, which repeats the name “Beloved” and insists that “she is mine.” Sethe’s... (full context)
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Sethe recalls her escape from Sweet Home and the day when she killed her child. She... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 21
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Denver’s monologue follows Sethe’s. She asserts that Beloved is her sister and that they have a special bond: she... (full context)
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When she was younger, Denver was afraid Sethe would kill her, too. She would dream that her dad, Halle, was coming. She idealized... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 22
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This chapter follows Beloved’s thoughts. She insists that Sethe is hers. She says “it is always now” and her thoughts mix different times in... (full context)
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Beloved recalls coming out of water and finding a house, then seeing Sethe’s face and recognizing that Sethe is the face from which she was separated. Now, she... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 23
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Beloved’s thoughts are followed by a dialogue of thoughts between Beloved, Sethe, and Denver. Beloved says she comes from “the other side” and remembers Sethe. Sethe says... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 24
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...the other slaves. They wait and observe Schoolteacher, plotting the best way to escape. But Sethe becomes pregnant, and the changes Schoolteacher makes about how the farm is run complicate their... (full context)
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Paul D is brought back to Sweet Home in chains, where he sees Sethe. Sethe got her two older children out but has not escaped. She plans to run... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 25
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...Paid says he wants to make up for showing Paul D the news clipping about Sethe. He then tells Paul D about how he changed his name. He was named Joshua... (full context)
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Stamp Paid tells Paul D that he was at 124 on the day Sethe killed her child. He tells him it was out of love and “she was trying... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 26
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124 is now quiet. Sethe is getting progressively weaker, quieter, and hungrier. She has discovered a scar under Beloved’s chin... (full context)
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Beloved begins to dominate in her relationship with Sethe, not obeying her and throwing angry fits whenever Sethe tries to assert herself. Denver worries... (full context)
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...house more often, as life at 124 deteriorates. Beloved seems to be going crazy and Sethe has regressed and is childlike and weak. Denver thinks that Beloved is making Sethe pay... (full context)
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...the Bodwins to look for work. She tells their maid Janey about Beloved and how Sethe seems to have lost her mind. Janey tells her to come back in a few... (full context)
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As Mr. Bodwin approaches, he hears the women singing. Inside 124, the singing reminds Sethe of Baby Suggs’ gatherings at the Clearing. She goes out to the porch to watch... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 27
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...seems no longer to be haunted. It is “just another weathered house.” Paul D thinks Sethe has gone crazy. (full context)
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...to 124. He senses that Beloved is truly gone. He enters the house looking for Sethe and finally finds her humming in the keeping room. He tries to talk to her... (full context)