Beloved

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Themes and Colors
Slavery Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Community Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Beloved, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Home Theme Icon

Beloved is split into three major sections, and each of these sections begins not with any description of a character, but with a short sentence describing Sethe’s house: “124 was spiteful.” Then, “124 was loud.” And finally, “124 was quiet.” As 124 is haunted, it seems to have a mind of its own and is almost a character of the novel in its own right. The house is extremely important to Baby Suggs and Sethe as a matter of pride. After escaping slavery, they are proud to finally have a home of their own (the ironically named Sweet Home was neither sweet nor a home for its slave inhabitants).

But the idea of a home is important in Beloved beyond the walls of 124. As a child, Denver finds a kind of home in a growth of boxwood shrubs, a place that feels her own. Paul D spends practically the whole novel searching for a home. He is unable to settle down anywhere and, after much wandering, finally arrives at 124 but gradually moves out of the home into the outdoor cold house before leaving to sleep in the church basement. Slavery has robbed Paul D, like many others, of a home so that, even after he finds freedom, he can never find a place where he feels he truly belongs. These characters’ attempts to find a home can be seen as a consequence of the original dislocation of African-American slaves from their African home, the horrible voyage known as the middle passage that is vividly recalled by Beloved.

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Home Quotes in Beloved

Below you will find the important quotes in Beloved related to the theme of Home.
Part 1, Chapter 1 Quotes

124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom.

Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

The novel’s opening lines describe the house in which Sethe and Denver live. We are presented first with its name and second with a description of its malicious nature.

These sentences create several levels of distance between the text and the reader. First, beginning with a number rather than a word is disorienting, and presents the story in a sterile and abstract environment. Second, instead of describing a character or natural setting, the text opts to hone in on a building. Third, that building is detailed with emotional language that would seem more fitting for a human. In addition to establishing the importance of this physical space as a sort of pseudo-character, Morrison also disrupts the ordinary conventions we expect from a novel’s opening.

Furthermore, the image of “baby’s venom” foreshadows how the haunted quality of 124 will be tied to Sethe’s killing of her child. A delayed sense of malice seems to have set into the physical space, filling it with the “venom” of the baby's murder. In this way, Morrison shows the events of the past to be deeply enmeshed in the happenings of the present—and in particular in its physical space.

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Part 1, Chapter 5 Quotes

Odd clusters and strays of Negroes wandered the back roads and cowpaths from Schenectady to Jackson.... Some of them were running from family that could not support them, some to family; some were running from dead crops, dead kin, life threats, and took-over land. Boys younger than Buglar and Howard; configurations and blends of families of women and children, while elsewhere, solitary, hunted and hunting for, were men, men, men.

Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:

When Paul D meets Beloved, he decides not to interrogate her about her past. He contemplates the various ways that ex-slaves traveled to escape their plantations.

Here Paul D presents the ways that this population moved through the United States. Instead of portraying a coherent migration, he uses language that connotes haphazard movement: “odd clusters and strays” as the subject, “wandered” as the verb. He then subdivides this general movement into a series of separate ones—a set of “some” groups that fled from and toward various destinations. The makeup of the populations, he notes, was similarly varied: the phrase “configurations and blends” emphasizes the lack of a singular identity.

Morrison unseats, through these images, the preconception that ex-slaves moved in a single, coherent fashion. They were not, she implies, composed of traditional family units or made of a homogenous population (because most family units had been broken up or destroyed by slavery itself, and slave owners tried to keep slaves from forming any kind of real community). Considering this complexity, it may seem surprising that Paul D does not ask Beloved of her past. And here we also see a commentary on personal history: Its complexity can provide grounds to ignore the past, to not dig too deeply for fear of what may be found.

Part 1, Chapter 10 Quotes

The chain that held them would save all or none, and Hi Man was the Delivery. They talked through that chain like Sam Morse and, Great God, they all came up. Like the unshriven dead, zombies on the loose, holding the chains in their hands, they trusted the rain and the dark, yes, but mostly Hi Man and each other.

Related Characters: Paul D
Page Number: 130
Explanation and Analysis:

While Paul D is working on the chain gang, a terrible storm threatens his group but also offers a route to escape. He observes that the instrument of their oppression could also serve as a route to salvation.

“The chain” becomes, in this description, far more than a physical object, but rather a way for the men attached to communicate and connect to each other. Morrison positions it as an active agent when she makes it the subject of the sentence that “would save all or none.” In comparison, the slaves are “unshriven dead, zombies,” language that emphasizes how dehumanized they have become in their current occupation. Thus the chain gains in agency just as the humans are deprived of it: indeed, the chain becomes the arbiter of their destiny.

At the same time, however, the cruel chain also becomes a route to escape. In connecting the slaves to each other, it gives them an opportunity to communicate without language—and to use the storm to access their freedom. In this way, Morrison transforms a symbol of slavery into a potential symbol of liberty; the slaves can use exactly what entraps them to flee entrapment.