Study Guide

Beloved Chapter 23

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Chapter 23

  • So just when you thought things were as strange as they could get, it turns out that they can get even stranger.
  • We're back in Beloved's mind for Beloved's story, Round 2.
  • Remember how the last chapter was all fragmented and spacey (both literally and figuratively)? How it was really hard to get a straight story out of Beloved? Think of this chapter as that last chapter, only all filled out.
  • All of a sudden, Beloved's giving us a linear story. Of course, that doesn't mean the story isn't totally weird because it is.
  • Beloved starts this chapter the same way as the last one: "I am Beloved and she is mine."But now she's giving us whole sentences; she's actually explaining herself. This is her story:
  • Sethe's the one who was picking flowers. She's left them on the quilt where she and Beloved sleep. Sethe's about to smile at Beloved but the men without skin come and take them into the sunlight with the dead. The dead get shoved into the sea but not Sethe.
  • Sethe goes into the sea all on her own and leaves Beloved behind without a face.
  • So it's Sethe's face that Beloved finds and loses under the bridge. When Beloved goes into the water under the bridge, she sees Sethe's face rising up and realizes it's her face, too.
  • Beloved wants to join Sethe, but Sethe breaks into pieces and goes into the light, meaning Beloved's lost her again. But Beloved ends up finding the house (124) because she hears Sethe's whispers, so that means she does find Sethe.
  • And guess what? Yep—Sethe's finally smiling.
  • Now Beloved wants some answers: why did Sethe go in the water where they crouched and why did she do that when she was about to smile at Beloved? Translation: why did Sethe go way over into the deep end and kill baby Beloved?
  • Beloved wanted to join Sethe in the sea but wasn't able to move then; she also wanted to help out with the flower-picking but the clouds of gunsmoke (aha!) blinded Beloved so she lost Sethe.
  • On Beloved's count, she's lost Sethe three times: (1) when the gunsmoke blinded her during flower-picking, (2) when Sethe went into the sea, and( 3) when she went into the water to join Sethe but Sethe didn't smile (instead, Sethe whispered, chewed, and swam away).
  • But now that Beloved's at the house, it's all smiles: Sethe's smiling, Beloved's smiling.
  • Beloved's determined now not to lose Sethe again. That's because Sethe is Beloved's. (By the way, can you hear the Psycho soundtrack playing in your head right about now?)
  • What comes after Beloved's remarkably clear (if not strange) narrative is basically a dialogue. The dialogue doesn't show who's speaking, but if you've been paying attention, it's not too hard to figure out who's who. The dialogue is, at first, between Beloved and Sethe.Sethe's asking Beloved a bunch of questions like, is Beloved really back from the dead and does Beloved forgive her. You know, questions you'd expect to ask your resurrected dead baby girl whom you killed.
  • Beloved mostly answers Sethe's questions in the affirmative except for that one question about whether or not Beloved forgives her.
  • Beloved answers that question with another question: "Where are the men without skin?" Fair enough, we figure. After all, we're not so sure Sethe would really like a straight-up answer to her question.
  • And those four white men "without skin" are arguably responsible for Beloved's death.
  • Beloved definitely seems scared of the men because Sethe needs to reassure her that the men are gone.
  • Then the two of them start to talk about all the things Beloved mentions before: how the clouds got in the way of the flower-picking; how Beloved would have bit off the iron circle for Sethe. Beloved even extends an offer to make a round basket for Sethe. Clearly, Beloved has a lot of time on her hands.
  • Anyway, Sethe can't get over the fact that Beloved's back while Beloved asks for a smile.That sounds normal enough although we'd like to point out that the way Beloved asks for the smile is definitely important. She says, "Will we smile at me?"
  • Of course, Sethe's already smiling, but that's not the point of the conversation really because, in the end, it's really about the face. Beloved loves Sethe's face and wants it for her own.
  • The dialogue that follows is between Denver and Beloved; although "dialogue" might not be the right word. Both girls end up retelling their stories, but Beloved practically ignores what Denver says since she's so obsessed with Sethe. That is, until they both start to talk about Sethe. Their conversation goes like this:
  • Denver's all "we" this, "you" that to Beloved. She describes how they played by the creek together; how Beloved came to her when Denver needed her; how she's going to protect Beloved from Sethe; and, finally, how their father is coming for them.
  • Beloved, on the other hand, is all "I" this, "her"/ "she" that. She's remembering the water, the clouds, Sethe's face, her need for Sethe's smile, how Sethe hurt her, how she loves Sethe too much.
  •  And then, to really end the conversation, Beloved says her signature phrase—"a hot thing"—after Denver says Halle will be coming for them.
  • What follow the dialogues are, more or less, a chorus and a trio: Sethe, Beloved, and Denver are all speaking together, but they also take turns.
  • They all have their distinct phrases by now. For instance, Denver's the one who drank blood; Beloved's the one obsessed with Sethe's smile; and Sethe's the one who is fixated on Beloved's return.
  • But they all share a common chorus and that's "You are mine." Obviously, a possessive bunch, but we knew that already right?
  • Anyway, by the time they're done, it's hard to tell whose voice is speaking.

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