Free Study Guide: Beloved by Toni Morrison|
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FREE LIT NOTES FOR BELOVED BY TONI MORRISON
Paul D is amazed by the change that has come over Denver. She appears confident and full of life. She is now working in the outside world in order to make some money to help Sethe. She feels like a real person for the first time in the novel. As a result, she does not resent Paul D's presence this time; she just asks him to be careful about how he talks to Sethe. Paul allows Sethe to do the talking. He listens as she tells him that Beloved has left her and admits that it is probably the best thing.
When Paul D sits down in the rocking chair, he again reflects on the
past. He thinks of Sethe's scarred back, her delicious mouth, her mean
eyes, and her tenderness when she saw him chained by the collar back at
Sweet Home. He remembers how Sethe never looked at the collar, leaving
his manhood intact. He then tells Sethe that "he wants to put his
story next to hers." He adds that they have more of yesterday than
anybody else and that they need each other for tomorrow. He then takes
her hand and says, "You your best thing, Sethe. You are." Sethe,
in disbelief, says, "Me? Me?"
Throughout the community, rumors are spread about Beloved and grow into legends. Everyone seems to believe something different about her. In the end, she becomes a repository for everyone's pain, loss, and guilt.
Several of the images of Beloved are connected to water: she becomes a woman with fish for hair and a woman who takes a man to an "ocean-deep place he once belonged to." One interpretation of the sea-deep place is to see it as the waters of the womb, in which an embryo shares a bond with its mother. The sea also represents the waters of life and new beginnings. But the sea can also cause death. During the Middle Passage, "six million or more" slaves died and were cast into the ocean. A third interpretation has been suggested by African scholars who draw parallels between Morrison's imagery of the other world and African myths about a watery afterlife. The value of the water image is that it can touch different readers in different ways; each reader can come away with a unique experience of this novel.
In the last scene of the novel, Paul D mothers Sethe. It is a flashback to the times that Sethe was cared for by Amy Denver, Ella, and Baby Suggs. The difference is that Paul D is determined to care for Sethe for a long time in order to make her whole again. Paul D has been through a tough time himself and managed to survive. Now he wants to help Sethe heal. By helping and loving her, he knows that he will further heal himself.
When Paul D tells Sethe at the end of the chapter that she is her own best thing, Sethe is amazed at the thought and asks, "Me?" For the first time in the novel, she is thinking of herself as an independent being, separate from her family. It is the first step in accepting the value of her own self.
Although the novel does not end by giving the reader an image of Sethe
and Paul D's future, it does provide hope that they will find a way to
wholeness. Having suffered great loss, they are now ready to give themselves
to each other. To help in the healing process, the community has finally
surrounded them with love and care. Even Denver, who is now a happy working
woman, has blessed Paul D's return.
In this final chapter, Beloved has disappeared not only as a presence
in Sethe's house, but also as a source of gossip for the townspeople.
She is soon "disremembered and unaccounted for." Her footprints,
however, sometimes appear and disappear by the stream that flows near
The last chapter begins in such a general mode that the reader wonders if the subject--"her"--is really the character Beloved. It seems to be alluding more to all those people who have been forgotten and who haunt the living. Only in the last words of the novel is the name Beloved spoken; and the word takes on a more general meaning. Beloved is not just Sethe's daughter, but all those unfortunate souls who were lost to slavery and racism and who deserve to be beloved.
In the end, Beloved should truly be beloved. She became the catalyst for Sethe,
Paul D, Denver and the community to acknowledge their loss of culture,
pride, and life due to the injustices of slavery; in dealing with their
past hurts, they can finally heal.
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TheBestNotes.com Staff. "TheBestNotes on Beloved".
. 09 May 2017