Study Guide

Beloved The Home

By Toni Morrison

The Home

Chapter 1

Not only did she have to live out her years in a house palsied by the baby's fury at having its throat cut, but those ten minutes she spent pressed up against dawn-colored stone studded with star chips, her knees wide open as the grave, were longer than life, more alive, more pulsating than the baby blood that soaked her fingers like oil. (1.16)

Sethe killed her baby on the 124 property. Aside from the whole haunting sitch, what other effect does that act have on the house?

Within two months, in the dead of winter, leaving their grandmother, Baby Suggs; Sethe, their mother; and their little sister, Denver, all by themselves in the gray and white house on Bluestone Road. It didn't have a number then, because Cincinnati didn't stretch that far. In fact, Ohio had been calling itself a state only seventy years when first one brother and then the next stuffed quilt packing into his hat, snatched up his shoes, and crept away from the lively spite the house felt for them. (1.1)

124 really doesn't take to men. Or maybe men just aren't strong enough to put up with the house. Why is 124 so female-oriented?

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 daughters Denver were its only victims. (1.1)

Right off the bat, we get our first clue that this house acts more like a character than a setting. Personification, comin' at ya.

Sethe

"We could move," she suggested once to her mother-in-law.

"What'd be the point?" asked Baby Suggs. "Not a house in the country ain't packed to its rafters with some dead N****'s grief." (1.17-18)

Leave it to Baby Suggs to put everything in perspective. These words remind us that as traumatic as this particular family's history is, they're not alone.

Chapter 11
Paul D

He believed he was having house-fits, the glassy anger men sometimes feel when a woman's house begins to bind them, when they want to yell and break something or at least run off. He knew all about that—felt it lots of times—in the Delaware weaver's house, for instance. But always he associated the house-fit with the woman in it. This nervousness had nothing to do with the woman […] Also in this house-fit there was no anger, no suffocation, no yearning to be elsewhere. He just could not, would not, sleep upstairs or in the rocker or, now, in Baby Suggs' bed. So, he went to the storeroom. (11.14)

Isn't that just another way of rationalizing that a house is a woman's space and that men belong outside of the house? Hasn't Paul D ever heard of women's lib?

Chapter 13

A truth that waved like a scarecrow in rye: they were only Sweet Home men at Sweet Home. One step off that ground and they were trespassers among the human race. (13.1)

The men at Sweet Home are treated like men. But what's the point when you can't carry that feeling around past the property grounds? What kind of freedom is that?

Chapter 15
Baby Suggs

In Lillian Garner's house, exempted from the field work that broke her hip and the exhaustion that drugged her mind; in Lillian Garner's house where nobody knocked her down (or up), she listened to the white woman humming at her work; watched her face light up when Mr. Garner came in and thought, It's better here, but I'm not. (15.22)

How about that repetition? Reading the words "Lillian Garner's house" multiple times pretty forcefully reminds us that Sweet Home is, well, Lillian Garner's house. Does that means it could never truly be home for Baby Suggs?

Chapter 19
Sethe

When Sethe locked the door, the women inside were free at last to be what they liked, see whatever they saw and say whatever was on their minds. Almost. Mixed in with the voices surrounding the house, recognizable but undecipherable to Stamp Paid, were the thoughts of the women of 124, unspeakable thoughts, unspoken. (19.222-223)

Even in this haven for women, you get the sense that 124 isn't all that peaceful. At the very least, the women might have some fundamental issues with each other. Morrison seems to be telling us that there's no such thing as a utopia for women.

Chapter 26
Mr. and Miss Bodwin

The land, of course, eighty acres of it on both sides of Bluestone, was the central thing, but he felt something sweeter and deeper about the house which is why he rented it for a little something if he could get it, but it didn't trouble him to get no rent at all since the tenants at least kept it from the disrepair total abandonment would permit.

There was a time when he buried things there. Precious things he wanted to protect. (26.138-139)

Mr. Bodwin is feeling nostalgic about 124, but boy is he in for a surprise.

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