Study Guide

Beloved Chapter 21

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Chapter 21

  • Okay, we learned what was on Sethe's mind.
  • Now it's Denver's turn to tell the story.
  • Like Sethe, the first thing Denver thinks is that Beloved is hers. That's because she swallowed Beloved's blood along with her mother's milk. (Does that seem a little bit creepy to you? It does to us, too.)
  • She and Beloved have been a team ever since she was small, the both of them waiting for Halle—that is, all the way up until Paul D came and threw Beloved out.
  • Why was her father so important to Denver? We find out that Denver's scared of her mother since her mother killed one of her daughters and just missed killing her brothers. (Sounds like a good enough reason to us.)
  • Her brothers told her "die-witch! stories" so that she could protect herself from Sethe.
  • By the way, about her brothers—they told her that they were going to join the War. Denver figures it's because they'd rather be around "killing men" than "killing women."
  • Anyway, all of this is why Denver needs to own Beloved. She has to protect Beloved from Sethe in case Sethe ever thinks of killing her children again.
  • Denver's worried that whatever terrible thing that made Sethe kill once doesn't come from within 124. It comes from outside—out in the world.
  • That's why Sethe killed Beloved, after all. Something harmful came into their yard.
  • Which is why Denver hasn't left the house for years. She has to watch over the house and yard so that her mother won't have to kill Denver, too.
  • And how's this for vigilance? Denver's only gone out three times: once, by herself, to Miss Lady Jones' house and two other times with her mother (when Baby Suggs died and with Paul D to go the carnival). When she came back the second time, Beloved was there at 124.
  • Clearly, Beloved was ready to be protected by someone like Denver.
  • And Denver's serious about her job. She thinks again about how Sethe could harm Beloved. You see, Denver's witnessed her mother go to her dark place; she knows her mother has it in her still.
  • Denver also has a memory of touching. It's not all that clear who exactly is being touched; only that Sethe is definitely a part of the touching and it's not a good kind of touching.
  • Denver did try to clarify her memory by asking Nelson Lord (a friend?), but she recalls that she couldn't hear anymore what was said to her in reply. That's how she got to be so good at reading faces and minds—so that she wouldn't need to hear.
  • Actually, that's also why Denver and Beloved get along so well in Denver's mind—they don't need to talk when they play together.
  • At first, Denver did think that Beloved might have come back to hurt Sethe—to kill her in return—but then she realized that Beloved loves Sethe.
  • And that's what has her worried. She doesn't want Beloved to love Sethe too much.
  • You just can't love someone who might kill you at any moment. Logical, right?
  • And just so she's clear, Denver points out that Sethe did cut Denver's head off—every night.
  • Howard and Buglar told her that would happen and it did.
  • For Denver, the head-cutting came from the way Sethe looked at Denver, like Denver was a stranger to be pitied.
  • Then Sethe would take her head and braid her hair. Okay, we hear you—this is definitely weird because Denver's head, we're pretty sure, is still attached to her neck. But can you imagine a child's fear of having Sethe, the baby-throat-cutter, come to do her hair every night? Let's just say Sethe wouldn't be doing our hair.
  • The only place Denver has ever felt safe from Sethe is in Baby Suggs's room, which is a storeroom Baby Suggs built (she was a huge renovator, too; she changed the house completely by moving the kitchen indoors). That's where she would go to escape, where she didn't care about not hearing everybody.
  • In fact, not hearing things meant that she could dream about her father and wait for him to come.
  • If you can't tell by now, Denver really wants her father; she's thinking he can help her watch out for Sethe (or Ma'am, as Denver calls her) and watch over the yard.
  • Denver learned all about her father (who ends up being a lot like an angel—just too good for this world) from Baby Suggs. Things like: Halle could get happy over soft fried eggs; plus, he was smart since he knew basic math (he volunteered to learn from Mr. Garner) and believed education was necessary for slaves.
  • Just so you know, Denver can't think of her father without thinking of her grandmother, too, which is why Denver ends up recalling not just all the good stuff Halle did, but how Baby Suggs tried her best not to make her kids go crazy. According to Baby Suggs, kids go nuts when they see their mothers get knocked down by white men.
  • Since Baby Suggs never got knocked down in front of Halle, Denver believes Halle hasn't gone crazy and will show up one day, especially since Paul D was able to make it out.
  • Denver's hoping that it can just be Halle, Beloved, and herself one day; Sethe can go off with Paul D, especially now that Paul D's been in Sethe's bed. Denver's kind of a moralist.
  • But Baby Suggs has told her not to be judgmental about having sex with a lot of different men. Both black people and white people used to judge Baby Suggs for having a bunch of kids by 8 different men, but she believed that women should listen to and love their bodies (that's what she advised Denver to do).
  • Baby Suggs also told Denver that Denver was a charmed baby since Denver kept getting saved all the time.
  • Plus, Denver drank her sister's blood along with Sethe's milk. To Baby Suggs, that meant the ghost would never hurt Denver.
  • The ghost was coming for Sethe and possibly even Baby Suggs because they never stopped what happened in the shed. Denver only had to be careful because Baby Suggs thought the ghost was greedy for love, which was natural given the circumstances.
  • And of course Denver does love Beloved. She is, after all, Denver's.

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