Why, when House 124 was full of noise and parties before, does Stamp Paid say that House 124 was quiet in Beloved by Toni Morrison? Please explain this quote: Almost. Mixed in with the voices...

Why, when House 124 was full of noise and parties before, does Stamp Paid say that House 124 was quiet in Beloved by Toni Morrison?

Please explain this quote: Almost. Mixed in with the voices surrounding the house, recognizable but undecipherable to Stamp Paid, were the thoughts of the women of 124, unspeakable thoughts, unspoken.

Some passages in the novel mention that House 124 was noisy; is it noisy or quiet?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The house known as 124 Bluestone Road (or just 124) in Beloved by Toni Morrison is such a presence that it almost becomes one of the characters in the novel. We get a clue about the changing moods of the novel and its characters simply by paying attention to the mood of the house. For example, in the first chapter (page 3) of the novel we learn that "the house was spiteful." On page 169 we read that "124 was loud," and on page 239 we hear just the opposite, that "124 was quiet." All of these things can be true because they actually describe what is happening in the house rather than the house itself.

When an author gives human qualities to something that is not human or not living (like a house), we call it personification. Morrison personifies this house (makes it kind of like a person or character), and the house represents what is happening inside it. When things are in turmoil, the house is noisy; when things are calm (though perhaps not in a good way), the house is quiet. We know for sure that Morrison is personifying the house when she describes it as "spiteful," since we know that, while a house could actually be noisy or quiet, it is not capable of feeling any emotion or of being spiteful.

The quote you mention is found in chapter 19 of the novel. Stamp Paid has been to the house and thinks everything is fine; however, after the door shuts behind him we get a different impression of what is really happening in 124 Bluestone:

When Sethe locked the door, the women inside were free at last to be what they liked, see whatever they saw and say whatever was on their minds. Almost. Mixed in with the voices surrounding the house, recognizable but undecipherable to Stamp Paid, were the thoughts of the women of 124, unspeakable thoughts, unspoken.

Obviously what is happening in this house is complicated. We have a mother (Sethe), a daughter (Denver), and a ghost named Beloved (a rather mysterious woman who seems to be the daughter Sethe killed 15 years ago to keep her form being sold into slavery). Add the presence of Paul D Garner and things get even more complicated. What we know is that there are secrets and unrest in this house, some of which Stamp Paid knows or might guess at but does not know for certain. 

Again, Morrison is kind personifying the emotions and turmoil of the house. She writes as if these things (the secrets and unrest) are living entities; however, they are only able to be understood and heard by the women of the house.

That brings us back again to the question of whether 124 Bluestone is a noisy or a quiet house. Again, we cannot read these two words literally; instead we consider what is happening emotionally in the house to determine whether the house is noisy or quiet. Another thing we cannot take literally is the idea that quiet is always good and noisy is always bad. In this case, of course, Stamp Paid knows some of the tensions--and the cause of the tensions--in the house, but he cannot decipher them. Quiet or noisy are not simple indicators of emotions but of what is being expressed and what still remains hidden--and there is plenty that remains hidden. So, the answer to your question is that sometimes the house is noisy and sometimes it is quiet. Remember that the house is treated as a character, so it is capable of being both, just like any of us are. 

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