Beloved

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Beloved Part 3, Chapter 26 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
124 is now quiet. Sethe is getting progressively weaker, quieter, and hungrier. She has discovered a scar under Beloved’s chin (where she cut her own daughter with the saw) and is entirely convinced that Beloved is her daughter. Denver feels excluded by the strong bond between the other two.
Home life at 124 has degraded significantly, as Sethe’s motherly love turns into a harmful obsession. Even Denver is outside of the all-consuming bonds of neediness between Sethe and Beloved.
Themes
Motherhood Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
Beloved begins to dominate in her relationship with Sethe, not obeying her and throwing angry fits whenever Sethe tries to assert herself. Denver worries about Sethe. She realizes that it is up to her to leave 124 and get help. It is very hard for her to leave the house, but she eventually goes to Lady Jones.
Beloved’s control over Sethe is symbolic of Sethe’s more general surrender to her own past and memories. Denver's decision to get help is heroic—she is facing a great fear in going out alone, in breaking her isolation.
Themes
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Lady Jones recognizes Denver and welcomes her into her house. Denver asks for work, so that she can bring food home. Lady Jones says that Denver only has to ask for help and the church committee will give her food, but Denver doesn’t want to ask for help from strangers.
In a role reversal, Denver must now protect and care for her own mother. The church committee is an example of the helpful community that Sethe felt herself cut off from and then turned her back on.
Themes
Motherhood Theme Icon
Community Theme Icon
Two days later, Denver finds food left on a stump by 124. All through the spring, various packages of food are left at 124, sometimes with names written, so that Denver can go to people’s houses and thank them. Denver begins going to Lady Jones’ 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 for killing her with the saw.
As Denver has re-entered the surrounding community, the community now begins to support her and Sethe again. Within 124, things continue to get worse as Sethe’s being mentally overwhelmed by her past—her love, her guilt—is matched by her physical deterioration.
Themes
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Community Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
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Denver goes to 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 days for work. Denver notices a slave figurine for holding coins at the house with “At Yo Service” written on it. After Denver leaves, the news of Beloved spreads around town. Ella convinces the townswomen that they need to help Sethe.
The local community begins to come together to support Denver and Sethe. Under the direction of Ella, they decide to help Sethe even without being asked to do so. The slave figurine at the Bodwins’ house is evidence that even abolitionists like the Bodwins are not necessarily free from the prejudices that are at the root of slavery.
Themes
Slavery Theme Icon
Community Theme Icon
One afternoon, as Denver is waiting on her porch for Mr. Bodwin to pick her up from 124 to begin work, a crowd of women approach the house. They begin praying and then start to sing.
The group of women singing together emphasizes the importance of community as they attempt to drive Beloved away. It is also significant that the group is made up of all women. They alone know Sethe’s pain as a mother under slavery. They know the horror of what Sethe did, and yet now they are helping her, expressing understanding and fellowship.
Themes
Motherhood Theme Icon
Community Theme Icon
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 them sing, along with Beloved. The singing women see Beloved as a “devil-child.” Beloved has assumed the appearance of a pregnant woman
The association of the singing women with Baby Suggs further links them with the general power of motherhood. Beloved’s bizarre transformation shows that she is something more than merely Sethe’s daughter returned to life. Her pregnant appearance associates her more generally with motherhood. She could be understood as the embodiment of the pains and desires of being a mother under the circumstances of slavery.
Themes
Slavery Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Sethe mistakes Mr. Bodwin for Schoolteacher and runs after him with an ice pick, but she is restrained by the women. Denver runs after Sethe into the crowd of women, and Beloved thinks that both Denver and Sethe have deserted her.
The fact that Sethe thinks Mr. Bodwin is Schoolteacher shows the degree to which she is literally living in the past, but also suggests (given the racist figurine in the Bodwin's foyer) the degree to which all white people have certain similar racist similarities. Denver runs after her mother to protect and help her, an expression of love. Meanwhile, Beloved's power is broken by being abandoned—as a baby, as a memory, as guilt, she needs attention to survive.
Themes
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon