Free Study Guide: Beloved by Toni Morrison|
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FREE SYNOPSIS FOR BELOVED BY TONI MORRISON
Sethe then explains how she loved her children more after she got them and herself to freedom. At Sweet Home, she had not been able to love them properly, for they were the property of someone else. When she came home to Baby Suggs and her children, she felt she could finally love freely and without fear. Paul D understands what Sethe is saying. When he had been in Alfred, Georgia, he had listened to the doves, but felt he had no right to enjoy them because everything was owned by the men with the guns. Paul D understands Sethe's desire to be in a place where she can love without permission. For Paul D, "that was freedom."
Sethe realizes that she is circling around the truth without being able to get to the point. She does not want to tell Paul D what happened. She was working in the garden when she saw the horsemen. She immediately recognized Schoolteacher's hat and panicked. All she could think or say was "no" over and over again. She quickly "collected every bit of life she had made, all the parts of her that were precious and fine and beautiful, and carried, pushed, dragged them through the veil, out, away, over there where no one could hurt them." She wanted to put her babies where they would be safe and free from slavery.
Finally accepting that Sethe has really murdered her daughter, Paul D hears a roaring in his head. He is sick and confused. He had thought he had gotten rid of the ghosts at 124 Bluestone and made it a safe and comfortable place to be. He had thought Sethe was like Halle -- obedient, shy, and hard working. Suddenly, however, he does not know the woman in front of him; and it is not so much what Sethe has done, but how she sees it that scares him.
Paul D tells her that her plan did not work, for her children were not safe. She replies that it did work because her children are not at Sweet Home or with Schoolteacher. Paul D tells her that there are worse places to be. He then tells Sethe she did wrong and reminds her, "You got two feet, Sethe, not four." His words cut Sethe to the core; and as a result, "a forest sprang up between them; trackless and quiet." Paul D later wonders what made him say such a cruel thing to her. After all, he was also filled with shame because of his cold-house secret.
As Paul D prepares to leave, he looks up the stairs and sees Beloved
watching. At the door, he tells Sethe to put his supper plate aside because
he will be late. Sethe thinks it is sweet of him to think saying goodbye
would break her. She says so long, believing Paul D is gone forever.
Not surprisingly, Sethe has trouble admitting that she has killed her daughter. In an effort to explain her action, she talks about her deprivations. Because of the horrible institution of slavery, her son was so underfed that he could not hold his head up until he was nine months old. As a young and uneducated mother, Sethe knew nothing about child rearing and had no one to answer her questions; she simply had to do her best, which was difficult when she had to work all day long and then try to care for her children. Longing for a better life for them, she managed to send Howard, Buglar, and Beloved away from Sweet Home and slavery to live with Baby Suggs until she could escape to Cincinnati. Even when Sethe arrived at 124 Bluestone, life was difficult as she worked and tried to care for four children without the help of a husband.
When Sethe saw Schoolteacher and the other white men approaching 124 Bluestone, she decided she would do anything to keep her children from returning to slavery. In her frightened state, she felt that death was a better option for them than returning to Sweet Home. As a result, she took matters into her own hands.
Paul D cannot believe what Sethe is saying. He thinks that she does not know where the world stops and she begins. He is describing something that psychologists term individuation. It is a process in childhood whereby children gradually differentiate between themselves and their mothers as well as between themselves and the world around them. Before individuation, the child lives in an undifferentiated world where everything is connected. The path to individuation is helped by a significant other, usually the mother, who grants recognition and individualism to the child. Since Sethe never received recognition as an individual from her own mother, she was never able to grant it to her own children. At the moment she attempted to kill Howard, Buglar, Beloved, and Denver, she was really inflicting the pain on herself. To Sethe, her children were simply part of herself. Paul D criticizes her for loving her children "thickly" and for acting like an animal in trying to "save" them from Schoolteacher.
Paul begins to see Sethe in a new light that he cannot accept. He realizes her potential for destruction is as deep as the slave system that destroyed the men and women of Sweet Home. He cannot resolve this new image of Sethe with the one he has kept during all of his years in exile; he still wants her to be a young, naïve, and obedient woman, but now he knows she is the murderess of her own daughter. Unable to accept this image or her rationalizations, Paul D feels he has to leave 124 Bluestone. He cannot, however, tell her goodbye. He simply says she should not make his dinner, for he will be late. As he departs, he sees Beloved watching him from the top of the stairs.
Paul D's desertion of Sethe at the point when she trusts him enough to tell
him the truth sets her on a self-destructive course. Under slavery, Sethe
and her family were commodities, treated no better than animals that were
bought and sold. When Paul D tells her she acted like an animal when she
killed her baby, he makes her a slave once again. She feels completely
betrayed, just when she needs Paul D the most.
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. 09 May 2017