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Free Study Guide: Beloved by Toni Morrison

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BELOVED: FREE ONLINE BOOK NOTES / STUDY NOTES

CHAPTER 2

Summary

As Sethe and Paul D climb the stairs to her bedroom, he is overwhelmed by the fact that he has found her after eighteen years. He is also excited that he is about to make love with Sethe after longing for her intensely so many years ago. In contrast, Sethe feels anxious. It has been a long time since she has experienced sex. Both of them, however, fall into bed and make love before they can even take all their clothes off. It is an unsatisfying experience, and afterwards, they feel somewhat embarrassed and shy. Both allow their minds to drift backwards in time, reflecting on their attitudes toward sex when they lived at Sweet Home.


Sethe remembers Sixo, a fellow slave, who walked for over thirty miles each way to be with his lover. Paul thinks, "There was a man." Sethe thinks about living at Sweet Home before her marriage to Halle, when everyone still wondered whom she would pick to be her husband. She remembers how the male slaves would look at her when she took food out to them while they worked in the fields. She could have married any of them, but she chose Halle because of his quiet ways and his devotion to his mother. She thinks about how she made a simple white frock for her wedding gown and how she and Sethe made love in the cornfields after their marriage. Sethe never regretted her choice of Halle anytime during the six years that they were married.

Sethe thinks about Baby Suggs, Halle's mother. She remembers her saying that "a man is nothing but a man." Baby Suggs then added, "But a son? Well now, that's somebody." Halle had always been special to his mother. Because of slavery, all of the important people in Baby Suggs' life had been taken away from her, with the exception of Halle, who remained with his crippled mother for twenty years and fought for her emancipation.

Notes

Although it is clear to both Sethe and Paul D that they are going upstairs to make love, their emotions are very different. Paul D is almost breathless with anticipation, for he has longed for Sethe for many years. Sethe is a little apprehensive, for it has been a long time since she has experienced sex. Both of them, however, are so excited that they cannot even fully undress. After their lovemaking, they feel awkward and shy. Not knowing what to say to each other, their minds drift back to their days in slavery.

Like in the first chapter, only small, suggestive amounts of information about the past are presented. Paul D remembers his fellow slave, Sixo, and admires his determination to walk for over thirty miles to be with his lover. He hints that Sixo met with an untimely death, for he says that he laughed at the very end although what happened to Sixo is unclear. In a similar manner, Sethe thinks about her past life. She remembers coming to Sweet Home at the age of thirteen and choosing the gentle Halle as her husband. She thinks about making love to him in the cornfields and about living happily with him for six years; but she still does not reveal what has happened to Halle.

It is important to note how Morrison uses an omniscient point of view, where she can see into the minds of all the characters. In this chapter and throughout the novel, she fluidly shifts from the thoughts of one character into the thoughts of another. As Sethe thinks about Halle's gentle lovemaking in the cornfields (in contrast to the unsatisfactory lovemaking that has occurred with Paul D), Paul D remembers watching the couple with jealousy.

It is also important to note that Baby Suggs' saying, "A man is nothing but a man," is a meaningful comment. Like all female slaves, she knew only two kinds of men in her life: the white slave owners who abused and raped her and the male slaves, including her husband, who were powerless to really help her or remain by her side. Since Baby Suggs could not really love either of these types of men, she turned all of her love and emotion on her son, Halle. Sethe also loves Halle, her husband, but she loses him.


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