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Free Study Guide: Beloved by Toni Morrison

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FREE ONLINE GUIDE FOR BELOVED BY TONI MORRISON

CHAPTER 20

Summary

Since Sethe thinks Beloved has chosen to come back to her, she decides she must tend to her as no mother has ever tended to a child. First, she must explain to Beloved that if she had not killed her, something worse would have happened to her. Now Beloved can feel safe in her care. Sethe also feels relieved that her daughter has come home, for now she can "look at things again because she's here to see them too." She knows that after the murder she stopped looking out at the world, but now she plans to look again.

Even though Sethe plans for a brighter future, she is still haunted by he past. Once again in this chapter, she remembers more about the atrocities that she has experienced. She thinks about Mrs. Garner not doing anything to Schoolteacher's nephews after they abused Sethe, even though she told Mrs. Garner all about what happened. She also remembers putting her children in the wagon that would take them away from her. She then remembers being horribly beaten for setting her children free. The beating was so bad that she bit off a piece of her tongue as oppressors struck her back. Since Denver never lived there, she does not like Sethe to talk about Sweet Home. Sethe now knows, however, that she will be able talk to Beloved about it, because she was there.

Sethe thinks about her misery after the murder. Her "mind was homeless then." She wanted to lay in the grave with Beloved, but she knew she had to live to take care of Buglar, Howard, and Denver. In truth, for eighteen long years, Sethe has never been at peace. Now, however, she believes she can live a new life, for "she come back to me, my daughter, and she is mine."

Notes

In this chapter, Morrison employs a new narrative technique, known as stream of consciousness. The chapter is written as if it were Sethe's internal thoughts. It begins, "Beloved, she my daughter." By switching to a first person internal monologue, Morrison can show the change in the psyche of Sethe. She is finally beginning to see her children as separate entities from herself. In the past, Sethe was unable to accept that Beloved was a separate person from her who deserved to live regardless of Sethe's fears. Through the years, she has convinced herself that murdering Beloved was a loving act that was intended to protect her daughter from pain. Now that Beloved has returned, however, Sethe is forced to face the fact that this daughter is angry about her murder at the hands of her mother. As a result, Sethe desperately wants to explain her reasons to Beloved.


Sethe feels a true relief to know that Beloved has returned. Since the day of her murder, Sethe has been afraid to look out into the world. She did not want to see what her baby could not see. Now that Beloved her returned, Sethe is again free to look at the world, for her daughter is also present to see it; but until Sethe can exorcise the past and her guilt about it, she will never be able to see the world clearly. Sethe tries to deal with the past by thinking about it. She again members the beating she received by Schoolteacher's nephews, the lack of concern shown by Mrs. Garner, the pain she felt when she sent her children away from her in a wagon, and the beating she received for sending her children to freedom.


CHAPTER 21

Summary

Because she and her mother are ostracized by the community, Denver has lived an isolated existence. She never leaves the house at 124 Bluestone, staying alone there while her mother works. In addition, she never knew her father except for what Baby Suggs had told her. She believes, however, that Halle was "an angel man" who could sense the pain of others.

It is not surprising that Denver welcomed the company of the infant ghost in the house. Baby Suggs had told her not to be afraid of the ghost, for it would not hurt her; she also warned that the ghost needed a lot of love, which Denver tried to give it. When the ghost departed, Denver was more lonely than ever. As a result, she feels a great sense of relief when Beloved arrives at the house. Denver enjoys her company, even though she knows and accepts that Beloved is the reincarnation of her sister. She also understands that Beloved was murdered by her mother. She feels like there is something in Sethe "that makes it all right to kill her own." Although Denver loves Sethe, she is fearful that she may murder again. She wonders how to keep herself and Beloved safe from Sethe's rage.

Notes

This chapter is devoted entirely to Denver's thoughts and feelings, which are again narrated in a stream of consciousness style. It is amazing that Denver still loves Sethe, for she understands that she murdered Beloved and also tried to kill her. Even though she claims to love her mother, Denver is also afraid of her. She feels she has the power to murder again; as a result, she never really feels safe.

Because the community has always ostracized her and her mother, Denver has known very few people. As a result, she hangs on to the memory of Baby Suggs, one of the few people she has been able to love in her life. One of the most important things that Denver remembers is that Baby Suggs painted a mental picture of Halle for her. As a result, Denver thinks of her father as an angel, just as Baby Suggs described him. Baby Suggs also taught her not to be afraid of the baby ghost that lived in the house. As a result, Denver was able to befriend it. She was also able to accept Beloved as soon as she arrived at 124 Bluestone. It did not take Denver long to realize that this newly arrived stranger was really her dead sister, come to life again. Like Sethe, Denver feels that Beloved belongs to her, since they are siblings.


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