Now it's Beloved's turn to "talk." Why are we putting quote marks around talk? Because Beloved's idea of speech is really, really strange. She doesn't use real sentences and her thoughts are totally disjointed. There are gaps—literally—everywhere.
Making sense of Beloved's chapter can be a little like dealing with Swiss cheese, but it's also totally worth it because Beloved's speech is a lot like poetry or music—truly beautiful and haunting. Don't take our word for it though—read the chapter for yourself.
Beloved is stating the fact that she is Beloved—a bold statement considering Beloved's supposed to be dead.Beloved also points out that "she is mine," but it's not clear exactly who "she" is.
We do know that "she" is stripping leaves from flowers and putting those flowers in a basket, but not for herself.
Beloved would help her but the clouds are in the way.Beloved, by the way, isn't separate from "her." "She" and Beloved own the same face, and Beloved wants to be where "her" face is while looking at it, too. A little trippy considering we're pretty certain they're not playing Twister.
Beloved ends the first paragraph with this one mysterious phrase: "a hot thing." Hint: this phrase is really important because it's going to be repeated throughout the rest of this chapter and the next, so keep your eyes peeled for it.
Okay, moving on. Beloved thinks that everything is now. There isn't any past or present. It's all happening to her now. And what's happening to her is a whole lot of crouching and watching, all of which—we're guessing—isn't too comfortable for her (can you imagine the back pain and muscle cramping? Lucky she's a ghost).
Anyway, there's a dead man on her face and this guy's face is definitely not hers. Good thing too—he can't be that attractive if he's dead and face-planted on her.
But where is Beloved? She doesn't say, but wherever she is, it can't smell nice since the people around her "nasty themselves"—that's another way of saying they're urinating and defecating on themselves.
She herself isn't eating (for good reason, in our opinion).Oh and it gets grosser: the "men without skins" (interpret this how you want, but we're guessing these are white men) give Beloved and the people around her their "morning water" to drink—in other words, their urine. We know. Try not to gag.
Beloved must be kept somewhere with wooden slats or cracks because her only exposure to sunlight are the rays that filter through the slats.
Clearly, this place isn't a five-star hotel. Plus, it has rats and it's cramped. No one has any space to move.
The people can't even cry because they don't have enough water to drink. That also means that they can't sweat or urinate.
Suffice it to say, this place is pure hell.
Everyone wants to "leave their bodies behind," i.e., die. Hey, we would, too. Beloved, however, points out that "it is hard to make yourself die forever," that you always end up returning after a short while. That's ghost philosophy 101 for you.
Meanwhile, someone (or even some animal?) has teeth that Beloved thinks are "pretty white points." We're not so sure that anything with pointy teeth can be all that pretty—after all, aren't they a trademark of vampires?—but to each her own. We are sure, though, that Beloved's really into them because that dead man on her face? He gets pulled away, and, right afterward, Beloved admits that she misses his "pretty white points." (Yikes…)
At the same time, Beloved feels someone trembling, someone who's trying to leave his body. His trembling is like a small bird trembling, but because there isn't any room to tremble fully, he can't die (according to Beloved). We admit that that's some weird logic, but what else can you expect from Beloved?
By the way, everyone is now standing. Beloved, in her ever-descriptive language, says that her legs are like her dead man's eyes. We think it's safe to assume that that means Beloved can't stand too well.Beloved can't fall either; there's no room for it.
Now here is where things really start to get strange (relatively speaking of course). We know it's loud because those "men without skin" are making a racket.
Beloved also wants us to know that she isn't dead.On top of that, the bread is "sea-colored" (or moldy) so that can't be good to eat.
Beloved doesn't eat it though because she's too hungry.
By this time, they all must be out in the open somewhere because the sun makes Beloved's eyes close.
Near her is a pile of bodies "able to die." But Beloved can't find her dead man in that pile.That might be because there seem to be quite a few of these dead bodies; the men without skin actually need poles to push through the pile.
However, Beloved does spot the woman with the face she wants, the face Beloved thinks is hers.
The men end up pushing that woman and the rest of the dead bodies into the sea (which is, again, the same icky color as the bread).
Beloved's eyes are sharp enough to notice that the woman doesn't have anything in her ears. She also imagines what she would do if she had the pointy teeth of the dead man: she would bite through the "circle" or shackle around the woman's neck since she knows the woman doesn't like it.
Since the pile of dead bodies is in the sea, there's now room for Beloved to crouch and to watch others crouching like her. This position seems to signify the present tense because Beloved says that this crouching is "now always now inside."
By the way, that space between "now" and "inside" is straight from Beloved and typical of this chapter's text. So we're thinking that space, in general, is something you should really be aware of.
Oh—and that woman with Beloved's face? She's been dumped into the sea too.And just so you know, Beloved has been repeating that phrase—"a hot thing"—all throughout this part. Why? We can't say for sure, but we do think it's interesting that "a hot thing" seems to describe what Beloved feels when she sees all of the stuff going on around her.
Now for a brief interruption from your friendly Shmoop guide: we know you just want the plot summary here, but it might actually help for you to know a little about the Middle Passage since there's a pretty good chance this is what Beloved's talking about.
The Middle Passage was the journey that slaves were forced to make from Africa to the Americas. As you might expect, many of these people died on these slave ships due to truly horrible conditions like the kind Beloved's been describing.
Okay—back to your regular programming.
Beloved's really starting to repeat herself now. She's back to the beginning, remembering that "her" in the first paragraph—the one with the face with whom she's obsessed; the one she couldn't help because the clouds were in the way.
The woman she's talking about has a "shining in her ears." Earrings, maybe? Yep—Beloved's talking about earrings because she goes on to state that, among other things, the woman with the face wants her earrings.
There's another beginning, too. In this beginning, women and men are separated from each other, but the storms that rock them end up mixing the men and women together anyway.
It's at this point that Beloved finds herself on the back of the man.
What man? It's not entirely clear, but his shoulders are wide and Beloved is small.
Beloved loves this man because he has a song. She remembers his soft singing, which reminds her of the place where the woman stripped leaves from flowers and put them in the round basket. Unfortunately, this man Beloved's describing is also dead.
The woman, on the other hand, is crouching near "us" (Beloved and the rest of the slaves?).
Beloved doesn't see her until the man with the song dies on Beloved's face.
Okay so now we know, right?
The man with the song is the same man who has the pretty little teeth; the same guy whose dead face is planted on Beloved's face.
Everything gets just a bit clearer (and a bit freakier). Beloved tells us she can't lose "her" again. She also lets us know that the man who died on her face was actually in the way: he blocked her view of the woman just like the clouds did.
Beloved believes that the woman is going to smile at her.
The woman's "sharp earrings" are gone now, and Beloved's back recalling the pile of dead bodies and how they're being dumped into the sea.
The men without skin push her dead man through, into the sea, but the woman doesn't get pushed; she just seems to fall in.
Beloved must be torn up about all of this, especially the woman's body going into the sea, because Beloved's still hung up on her deadened hope that the woman was going to smile at her (note the shift to past tense here, too).
After all of this, it's like a variation on a theme: Beloved replays for us the image of death surrounding her. The fact that she and some of the others are crouching. The fact that the dead bodies aren't crouching and, instead, are floating on the sea. How the woman (now with a "dark face") doesn't have her sharp earrings or round basket when she goes into the sea. And lastly, how she goes into the sea with Beloved's face.
But things don't end here. In fact, Beloved keeps telling her story and it's like she's adding layers to an onion rather than taking the layers away.
She adds details like the fact that she's standing in the falling rain and how, while the others are taken, she isn't.
She also watches "him" eat and returns to crouching.
And now for something really ominous (if dead floating bodies aren't enough for you): Beloved says she's "going to be in pieces" and that "he hurts where I sleep." What does she mean exactly?
The next line suggests something pretty creepy: the man "puts his finger there."
Then, Beloved drops her food and she breaks into pieces. Is it rape? Molestation? Or is it something altogether different? Interpret away. We should add, though, that Beloved goes back to the woman and states that she took Beloved's face away. That probably confuses things just enough to unsettle you (and us!).
Anyway, Beloved now thinks that no one wants her. It's like she's going through an identity crisis because no one is saying her name.
Beloved starts to wait: she waits under the bridge for "her," only this water is different than the sea because there aren't any dead bodies floating in it.
Only thing is, Beloved's still stuck on the face of the woman who is going to smile at her.
Beloved also hears chewing and swallowing and laughter (sounds like a party to us). It's the laughter Beloved really focuses on—the woman's laugh and the fact that Beloved is the "laugher." (That's not a typo by the way.)
But what about that face? Does she ever smile at Beloved like Beloved wants her to? Since this really isn't a Disney story, you can probably expect that things don't end too well. Not only is there no smile, Beloved's language gets more agitated. Her "sentences" are shorter; the spaces between them more frequent and regular.
More to the point, Beloved becomes even more obsessed with the face that she has to have. Beloved's in the water with the woman and her face, and Beloved is looking for the "join" with the woman.
In other words, Beloved really really wants to connect with this woman.
But the woman is chewing and swallowing even as she's reaching for Beloved.
And all of a sudden, Beloved is gone.
It's Beloved who's swimming away and who's alone.
Beloved does come out of the water and ends up at a house, but enough beating around the bush.
It's pretty clear by now that she's at 124, and the face she so wants is Sethe's face.
Of course, now that Beloved has rematerialized and has returned to Sethe, Sethe's face is smiling. Now they can join. But we can't help shaking our heads a little.
Beloved sure had to go through a lot just for a smile…