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Free Study Guide: Beloved by Toni Morrison

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FREE LIT NOTES FOR BELOVED BY TONI MORRISON

CHAPTER 27

Summary

In this chapter, Paul D returns to 124 Bluestone, for he has heard that Beloved is gone. Some say she simply disappeared; others say she exploded. Ella fears she is hiding in the woods waiting for another chance to come out and get Sethe. Paul D, however, is convinced that Beloved is gone for good, for Here Boy, the old dog, has returned to the house, signaling that there are no ghosts in the neighborhood. Paul D has also heard the story about Sethe trying to attack Mr. Bodwin with the ice pick Supposedly, Bodwin never knew she was after him, for he assumed she was after the women singing in her yard. Fortunately, Ella stopped Sethe before she could get to Bodwin and hurt him. As a result, no harm was done; and in her delirious state, no one blamed Sethe.

Paul D's return is the most positive thing that has happened in the novel. It is beginning of new life for both him and Sethe. When he arrives at her house, he finds Sethe sitting with her expressionless eyes fixed on the window. Realizing that Sethe is giving up, just like Baby Suggs had done, Paul D becomes angry and decides he will save Sethe. He tells her he will take care of her and be there every night for her. He begins by heating up some water in order to bathe her. When he tells Sethe what he is doing, she wonders if there is anything left of her to bathe. She also callously asks him if he is going to count her feet. He responds by tenderly saying he is only going to rub her feet.


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?"

Notes

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.


CHAPTER 28

Summary

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 124 Bluestone.

Notes

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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