Beloved Suggested Essay Topics
by Toni Morrison

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Suggested Essay Topics

Pages 1-19
1. Beloved has an unusual name, but one that says a great deal about her parent’s feeling about her birth. As a slave, what justification could Sethe have for giving her firstborn child this name?

2. Baby Suggs feels she leads a life of good fortune, despite having been a slave for sixty years. Pretending you are her, defend and explain what you consider your good fortune.

3. How had Denver’s lack of companionship for so many of her developmental years affected her emotional growth? Find specific references in the text to support your opinion.

Pages 20-42
1. Despite (or perhaps due to) being slaves there, Sethe and the male slaves shared a certain kind of fellowship at Sweet Home. Use the novel to find examples of fellowship to validate this statement.

2. Often, that which we hold dear relates more to the symbolism of the object rather than the actual object. How is this true for Amy’s admiration of velvet?

3. Baby Suggs talks about a son being more special than just a man. In your opinion, what does she mean by this and how can you prove this from Halle’s treatment of her?

Pages 43–64
1. Sethe murdered one of her children and attempted to murder the others; her mother threw away all her babies but one. Using the text as reference, explain how mother love can be this strong.

2. Beloved is not pressed for information when she appears, yet is accepted into the household. Referring to specific passages in the novel, contrast Paul D’s reason for not asking any questions with those of Sethe and Denver.

3. Sethe and Denver seem to allow Paul D to instantaneously become head of the household once Sethe agrees to allow him to move in. Based on Sethe’s prior experiences so far in the novel, how can you rationalize her actions in this matter?

Pages 64–85
1. In the pain and humiliation of his torture, Paul D focuses on the rooster, Mister, as the symbol of what was wrong in his life. Citing other examples from the novel, explain how people often choose a symbol, rather than an actual event, upon which to dwell in times of extreme duress.

2. Amy runs away to find velvet, Sethe to better the lives of her children. How are the two women’s motives for running similar and dissimilar. Remember: the text is your source.

3. Paul D stops questioning Beloved when she chokes on a raisin. Physical acts are often caused by emotional reactions to a situation. How is this true for both Sethe and Denver, as illustrated by what we know of each of their life’s stories so far?

Pages 86–113
1. Paul D stayed with the weaver lady for 18 months, not because he loved her nor because of only her kindness, but because she fulfilled very specific needs of his. Often in life, we do as another asks because it does adhere to our own needs. What is it that Paul D was seeking that he found here, and why didn’t he stay longer?

2. Sethe’s need for a ritual or ceremony is not unusual. What other rituals or ceremonies had Sethe experienced in her life that would have led her to the need for one now in order to lay her burden down?

3. It is difficult for Sethe to accept Paul D’s presence in her life, even though this is what she wants. Sometimes, happiness is just as hard to acclimate to as unhappiness. How do you think it will be possible for Sethe to adjust? Validate your opinion with facts from the book.

Pages 114–147
1. Although the Garners considered themselves enlightened slave owners, they are still slave owners. Compare and contrast their thoughts on slavery with those of the anti-slavery Bodwins.

2. Paul D’s reason for wanting Sethe pregnant with his child is shockingly contemporary. The difference from today’s situations is that Sethe is a mature woman who is able to consider the offer in terms of her experience rather than as a love-stricken young girl. What is Sethe’s reason for deciding not to have Paul D’s baby, and how did she arrive at this decision?

3. Baby Suggs offers a feast for her friends and neighbors. Rather than being...

(The entire section is 1,388 words.)