If your idea of home is, say, a cozy three-bedroom with a yard, a spouse, and 2.5 kids, let's just say 124 Bluestone Road won't be your kind of home. Why? Because "home" in Beloved is a haunted concept.
In addition to the haunted house that is 124, Beloved is about the after-effects of slavery in a community of free slaves. That means the notion of home becomes an ideal that is finally in reach yet still unattainable for most of the ex-slaves. A lot of the characters in the book are still contending with the recent past, when slaves were refused the right to own a house, among other things.
In case property ownership wasn't enough of a sticking point, think about the one place in the novel that's actually called "home," Sweet Home, the Kentucky plantation that's anything but "sweet." Bottom line: don't go looking for comfort in the homes of Beloved.
In Beloved, "home" is a space for women, not for men. To become part of the home, men need to learn how to get in touch with their feminine side.
"A house is not a home." That pretty much sums up 124 for you.
Being a man is anything but simple in Beloved. Our leading men have some complicated relationships with women and with themselves. In order to prove their masculinity, men want to own things. So not owning anything—including themselves—leaves the male slave vulnerable to some pretty serious psych issues. Oh, and to baby girls who've come back from the dead.
In Beloved, a man is only worth something if he's "claimed" by someone else—a mother, a wife, a child, or a friend. Otherwise, he just won't have a meaningful life.
In Beloved, a real man is someone who resists authority and does his own thing.
If you're looking for a sweet romance in Beloved, good luck. Sure, there's a major relationship in the book that seems to end happily, but for the most part, love is just really messy. And by messy, we mean colossally chaotic. For starters, love can literally kill in this book. Oh, and it can make good men go insane and brings babies back from the dead. If you want a sweet, cuddly type of love, we suggest you get a teddy bear. If you want to read about the kind of love that will make you shake, shiver, and cry, then Beloved is for you.
In Beloved, feeling loved is a lot like being possessed by another person.
Sethe and Beloved both need to realize that real love means letting the other person go free.
Toni Morrison doesn't hold back when talking about slavery. In Beloved, we get all sides. For starters, there's the outright brutality and abuse of the system. That's the part we can all agree on. Then there are the grey areas. Examples? Beloved is full of 'em: a white slaveowner who treats his slaves as "real men"; a fugitive slave who kills her daughter so her daughter won't be caught by slavecatchers; a handful of white people who go above and beyond to help of fugitive slaves. Is there room for moral fuzziness on the topic of slavery? In Beloved there sure is.
In Beloved, it's impossible for a white person—no matter how well-intentioned—to truly understand the effects of slavery
Beloved's "memories" of the Middle Passage are meant to instill in us a collective memory.
Slavery and families just don't go hand-in-hand. See, slaveowners weren't in the business of helping slave parents and kids stay together unless it somehow benefited the slaveowners, too. Beloved is full of broken families, orphans, and dysfunctional relationships. Do the slaves form new kinds of families? Or are they left to fend for themselves?
Sethe's sacrifice was just an attempt to protect her family.
In Beloved, family has nothing to do with blood relations.
The past conjures up all sorts of little nasties in Beloved. Oh, and it also conjures up actual dead people. Why? Well, in part because no one can leave the past and all its traumas behind. You might say that the past is a little like a vampire that sucks the lifeblood out of some of our major characters—and not in a sexy, Robert Pattinson, kind of way. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. To forget the past is a big no-no for Morrison; that would be like forgetting that slavery existed at all. Instead, through her characters, our author urges us to maintain a collective memory of this dark period of American history.
In Beloved, the past isn't just one thing—it's more like a collection of stories that changes with each person's telling.
Forgetting Beloved is about as bad as Sethe's killing of her baby girl.
Beloved can be spooky, sure. But the spookiness carries more than just shock value. The supernatural elements of the novel—ghosts! risen babies! spells!—usually have to do with the past making itself known in the present. Especially when the present is looking like it's about to head off happily into the future.
Beloved isn't actually Sethe's daughter come back to life. Sethe's just projecting her past onto a poor, runaway slave who's suffering from amnesia.
Beloved returns from the dead because Sethe refuses to let go of the past.
With all the crazy, dysfunctional family drama going on in Beloved, it's no wonder communities play such a big role. These people need another support group. Sure, there's still all the pettiness that marks a typical Thanksgiving dinner with your relatives. But communities—especially for this group of ex-slaves—are as necessary as blood: they are what Morrison's characters fall back on when they're in trouble. Without a community, there's definitely no surviving slavery and its after effects.
The community in Beloved needs an outcast to band together against.
There's no real community in Beloved. Everyone is out for themselves.