Study Guide

Beloved Love

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Chapter 1

"For a baby she throws a powerful spell," said Denver.

"No more powerful than the way I loved her," Sethe answered and there it was again. The welcoming cool of unchiseled headstones; the one she selected to lean against on tiptoe, her knees wide open as any grave. Pink as a fingernail it was, and sprinkled with glittering chips. Ten minutes, he said. You got ten minutes I'll do it for free. (1.13-14)

Sethe is super easily sucked into the past: all the baby ghost has to do is throw something, and Sethe's thinking about the headstone she got for the baby. Clearly, Sethe's not thinking about the state of the furniture or the house. So which is more powerful: the spell or the love?

She had not thought to ask him and it bothered her still that it might have been possible—that for twenty minutes, heard the preacher say at the funeral (and all there was to say, surely) engraved on her baby's headstone: Dearly Beloved. But what she got, settled for, was the one word that mattered. (1.15)

It doesn't seem like the baby girl ever had a real name until Sethe had to get a headstone for her grave. What's with that? How would things be different in baby Beloved had a name? What would her name have been?

Chapter 12

To go back to the original hunger was impossible. Luckily for Denver, looking was food enough to last. But to be looked at in turn was beyond appetite; it was breaking through her own skin to a place where hunger hadn't been discovered […]

It was lovely. Not to be stared at, not seen, but being pulled into view by the interested, uncritical eyes of the other […] Denver's skin dissolved under that gaze and became soft and bright like the lisle dress that had its arm around her mother's waist. She floated near but outside her own body, feeling vague and intense at the same time. Needing nothing. Being what there was. (12.1-2)

Denver's pretty obsessed with Beloved. It kind of reminds us of Beloved's obsession with Seth, actually. Is Denver so starved for maternal love that she tries to get it from Beloved instead? Or is it something specific about Beloved that makes her feel that way?

Chapter 18
Paul D

"Your love is too thick," he said, thinking, That b**** is looking at me; she is right over my head looking down through the floor at me.

"Too thick?" she said, thinking of the Clearing where Baby Suggs' commands knocked the pods off horse chestnuts. "Love is or it ain't. Thin love ain't love at all." (18.19-20)

Just for clarity, Paul D is fighting with Sethe, but "that b****" he's talking about is Beloved. Is Paul D being paranoid or is Beloved causing the fight in some way?

Chapter 19
Stamp Paid

Deeper and more painful than his belated concern for Denver or Sethe, scorching his soul like a silver dollar in a fool's pocket, was the memory of Baby Suggs—the mountain to his sky. It was the memory of her and the honor that was her due that made him walk straight-necked into the yard of 124, although he heard its voices from the road. (19.4)

Paul D and Sethe may be the main romantic interests in the book, but we think the relationship between Stamp Paid and Baby Suggs is worth some heartfelt sighs of its own. "Baby Suggs—the mountain to his sky"? How romantic and sweet is that? Is this purely good love we're seeing here?

Chapter 22

I sit the sun closes my eyes when I open them I see the face I lost Sethe's is the face that left me Sethe sees me see her and I see the smile her smiling face is the place for me it is the face I lost she is my face smiling at me doing it at last a hot thing now we can join a hot thing (22.10)

Here's a tip to reading this passage: imagine yourself in Beloved's place, recalling what it feels like to bask in the warmth of a mother's love. Time seems to not matter because everything is in the moment (could that be why there are no periods?). Oh, and one other thing: "now we can join a hot thing" might be a reference to breastfeeding, especially since the ability to nurse one's own child is such a huge deal in Beloved.

Chapter 23

You are my face; I am you. Why did you leave me who am you?
I will never leave you again
Don't ever leave me again
You will never leave me again
You went in the water
I drank your blood
I brought your milk
You forgot to smile
I loved you
You hurt me
You came back to me
You left me

I waited for you
You are mine
You are mine
You are mine (23.7-9)

Here are all three of our girls—Sethe, Denver, and Beloved—speaking all at once and in turns. It seems like, to them, loving all about possessing the other person and claiming the other person. Question: Is there a difference between a possessive love and a claiming love?

Chapter 27
Paul D

Only this woman Sethe could have left him his manhood like that. He wants to put his story next to hers.

"Sethe," he says, "me and you, we got more yesterday than anybody. We need some kind of tomorrow."

He leans over and takes her hand. With the other he touches her face. "You your best thing, Sethe. You are." His holding fingers are holding hers.

"Me? Me?" (27.97-100)

Here's Paul D, taking a cue out of Sixo and Thirty-Mile Woman's guide to romance. He's applying what he's learned; instead of being all ego-driven, he's setting his ego—well, not completely aside, but next to Sethe's. Isn't that sweet? And a huge change from the guy we met at the beginning of the novel, don't you think?


Suddenly he remembers Sixo trying to describe what he felt about the Thirty-Mile Woman. "She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It's good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind." (27.96)

Leave it to Sixo to give us the most romantic vision of love possible in the book: the kind of love that returns a person back to him or herself. Isn't that sweet? Other characters think of love as possessing or claiming another person, but here's a man who spells out a whole other vision of love: one that's totally generous.

Chapter 28

Although she has claim, she is not claimed. In the place where long grass opens, the girl who waited to be loved and cry shame erupts into her separate parts, to make it easy for the chewing laughter to swallow her all away. (28.2)

We have to admit, we feel bad for Beloved. All this sympathy and pity we feel? Morrison's setting us up for the final moment, the last line of the book: "Beloved." In other words, Morrison wants us—the readers—to remember Beloved. Someone should, right?

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