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Free Study Guide: Beloved by Toni Morrison

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FREE BOOK NOTES FOR BELOVED BY TONI MORRISON

CHAPTER 22

Summary

This surrealistic chapter is seen from the perspective of the "other side" and is narrated by Beloved, who exists only in the present time. She thinks "there will never be a time when I am not crouching and watching others who are crouching too . . . The iron circle is around our neck."

Beloved is waiting in water and looks down below "where the blue is and the grass." She sees a face down there and wants the face to smile at her. She realizes that the face she sees is her face, which looks up at her through the water. Her face comes through the water and leads her down to the grass below, where a woman is waiting. She follows the woman, who is Sethe. She whispers to Beloved and touches her. Beloved imagines that "she chews and swallows me." But then Beloved sees herself swim away. When she comes out of the water, she claims that she is not dead. When she opens her eyes, she again sees Sethe, who is smiling.

Notes

The first person narrative in this chapter represents the thoughts of a ghost, who is remembering how she has spent the last eighteen years of her existence. In order to capture the floating thoughts of an apparition, Morrison foregoes punctuation, leaving only spaces between words and capitalization. She also has Beloved exist only in the present, for earthly time has no meaning in the other world. Because she was killed as a young child, Beloved's thought processes are not fully evolved into mature thinking.

Beloved is fully merged with the world around her. She does not recognize any boundaries, either between herself and her mother or between herself and the world. Everything seems to merge into one. She describes herself in a crowded place where food and water are scarce and where people are dead and dying. Men without skin are in charge, and the inhabitants wear iron collars that hurt them. Beloved's description of "hell" is really a description of the condition of the slaves during the Middle Passage as they are collared and crowded into the hold of a slave ship. Although Beloved did not directly experience the hardships of the Middle Passage, she identifies with her ancestors and becomes one of them. Since many of the dead that surround her have been slaves who suffered greatly, she becomes one with them.


Although Beloved returns to earth in an adult body, she is still a child in the other world. She refers to herself as small and remembers events from her childhood. She can still see Sethe's earrings and reflects on the day that Sethe carried her to the grape arbor and gathered flowers into a basket while her brothers played on the hill. Beloved also seems to have looked into the lives of other earthly beings. When she talks about the small animals looking at a child, it seems to be a reference to Denver's terrifying time in jail when rats stared at her and sometimes touched her.

In the other world, Beloved longs to be recognized by her mother. She imagines going down to see Sethe and being chewed and swallowed by her. Somehow she manages to escape and swim through the water back to the other world. Upon her return, she can still see Sethe's smiling face.


CHAPTER 23

Summary

This chapter is a continuation of the previous surrealistic one. Beloved is till the first person narrator, speaking from the other world. She thinks about Sethe, who picked flowers "in the place before the crouching." She is convinced that Sethe was about to smile at her when the men without skin came and shoved the dead into the sea. Sethe, however, went into the sea without the men pushing her. Beloved found and then lost Sethe's face in the water under the bridge. When she saw Sethe coming to her, she wanted to join her. Beloved tried to reach Sethe, but her mother floated away, up to the light above the water. Beloved followed Sethe and came to her house. When she sees Sethe, she is smiling at last. Beloved is determined not to lose Sethe again.

A voice asks Beloved if she came from the other side and if she came back because of Sethe. Beloved answers yes. The voice tells Beloved that she is safe, for the men cannot hurt them any more. Another voice talks to Beloved and describes how they played by the creek in the quiet time. The voice says she can give Beloved dreams. Beloved says that when she dreams, Sethe "chews and swallows" me. When she laughs, "I am the laughter." The voice tries to comfort Beloved and promises that "Daddy is coming for us."

The voices then speak together and claim Beloved as sister and daughter. They say, "You are my face; you are mine." One says, "I brought you milk;" the other says, "I drank your blood." One voice adds that she has her milk; another adds that she has her smile. Then the voices repeatedly chant, "You are mine." In the end, the voices promise Beloved that she will not be left again.

Notes

This chapter becomes a stream of consciousness narrative among Sethe, Beloved, and Denver. There is no indication of who is speaking or thinking except for the content of the message. Each of the three voices repeats the concerns that they have previously expressed. It is only in knowing the characters and what has happened previously in the book that the reader can distinguish which lines belong to which character. There are things, however, that hold all three of them together; they crave an escape from their pasts, and they have an extreme need for emotional nourishment - to feel secure and loved. All of their voices merge in the last three lines, "You are mine; you are mine; you are mine." The repeated phrase becomes a benediction to salve their pain.


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