by Toni Morrison
Beloved The Supernatural Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)
124 was spiteful. Full of a baby's venom. The women in the house knew it and so did the children. For years each put up with the spite in his own way, but by 1873 Sethe and her daughter Denver were its only victims. The grandmother, Baby Suggs, was dead, and the sons, Howard and Buglar, had run away by the time they were thirteen years old—as soon as merely looking in a mirror shattered it (that was the signal for Buglar); as soon as two tiny hand prints appeared in the cake (that was it for Howard). Neither boy waited to see more; another kettleful of chickpeas smoking in a heap on the floor; soda crackers crumbled and strewn in a line next to the doorsill. (1.1)
Two questions: (1) Why does Morrison highlight the supernatural so early on in the book? (2) Why does the house scare off the boys but not the women (and Denver)?
Baby Suggs died shortly after the brothers left, with no interest whatsoever in their leave-taking or hers, and right afterward Sethe and Denver decided to end the persecution by calling forth the ghost that tried them so. Perhaps a conversation, they thought, an exchange of views or something would help. So they held hands and said, "Come on. Come on. You may as well just come on."
The sideboard took a step forward but nothing else did. (1.5-6)
Sethe and Denver's approach to the ghost is pretty refreshing, and it kind of sets the tone for what goes on at 124. They treat the ghost like it's a totally natural, benign thing—not quite how Paul D or the boys deal with it.
"We have a ghost in here," she said, and it worked. They were not a twosome anymore. Her mother left off swinging her feet and being girlish. Memory of Sweet Home dropped away from the eyes of the man she was being girlish for. He looked quickly up the lightning-white stairs behind her.
"So I hear," he said. "But sad, your mama said. Not evil."
"No sir," said Denver, "not evil. But not sad either."
"Rebuked. Lonely and rebuked." (1.103-107)
Denver may be small and ignored, but don't count her out. She's smart enough to manipulate the ghost story for her benefit. And, by the way, we just have to add: Denver has a heckuva vocabulary—"rebuked"? Another sign that she's definitely more than what meets the eye.