Pages 1–19: Questions and Answers

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Study Questions
1. Why had Buglar and Howard run away from home?

2. How had Sethe bartered for the lettering on Beloved’s headstone?

3. How had Sethe’s children escaped from slavery?

4. Who had been the inhabitants of Sweet Home?

5. Why had Sethe chosen Halle from all the Sweet Home male slaves?

6. Why is Denver so shy?

7. Why do Sethe and Denver argue?

8. What does Sethe tell Paul D about the spirit in the house and the tree on her back?

9. How does Paul D fight the spirit?

10. Why does Denver resent Paul D for having rid the house of the spirit?

1. Buglar and Howard each had run away from home when he was in his teens, within two months of each other and just prior to Baby Suggs’ death when Denver was 10. They had been scared away by the spirit of their dead younger sister. Buglar left when just looking in a mirror caused it to shatter, and Howard left after watching two tiny handprints appear in a cake.

2. Sethe had bartered for the lettering on Beloved’s headstone by having sex with the engraver in the graveyard, leaning against the pink, glittery headstone she had chosen for her daughter while his young son watched. The engraver had offered the engraving for free if Sethe would have sex with him for ten minutes. She had then chosen the word/name “Beloved” for the headstone wondering, too late, if she could have had “Dearly” on the headstone if she had offered the engraver an additional ten minutes of sex.

3. Sethe, pregnant for the fourth time, had sent her children from slavery in Kentucky to freedom in Ohio via the Underground Railroad, in a wagon-load of children which had been part of a caravan crossing the river. Once they crossed the river they went to a small town near Cincinnati where their grandmother, Baby Suggs, lived.

4. The inhabitants of Sweet Home had been as follows: Sethe, purchased to replace Baby Suggs when Halle bought her freedom, was the only female slave; Paul F who was sold to meet expenses when Mr. Garner died; Paul D; Halle (Sethe’s husband); Sixo; and Paul A. Originally, Mr. and Mrs. Garner were the only whites who lived there but, after Mr. Garner’s death, Mrs. Garner invited schoolteacher and his two nephews to live there and manage the farm.

5. After Sethe had been purchased, the male slaves decided to wait, however impatiently and uncomfortably, for her to make her choice among them. It is possible that she had been so impressed with the twenty-year-old Halle’s giving up five years of Sundays to buy his mother’s freedom that she chose him for that reason.

6. Denver is so shy because she is not used to visitors, not having had any for the past twelve years. She hasn’t paid any visits in that long, either.

7. Sethe and Denver have words because Denver is rude to Paul D, asking why they keep talking about Sweet Home when it wasn’t either word in its name and then snidely suggesting he spend the night there talking about Sweet Home.

8. Sethe tells Paul D the spirit is that of her daughter who died at the age of two—Denver’s older sister—but doesn’t mention how or why the child died. She explained that the tree growing on her back is really the scars from the whipping she received from schoolteacher.

9. Paul D fights the spirit by grabbing two legs of the table and bashing it all about, smashing everything and screaming at the spirit to come out and fight him, not Sethe, if it wanted a fight.

10. Denver resents Paul D for having rid the house of the spirit because it’s been her only friend for the past twelve years.

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Pages 20–42: Questions and Answers