Beloved is a novel by Toni Morrison about Sethe, a runaway slave who believes that the spirit of her dead child has returned to life as a woman named Beloved.
- When runaway slave Sethe's former slavemaster arrives to reclaim her and her children, Sethe panics and attempts to kill her children. She only succeeds in murdering her eldest daughter.
- Years later, Sethe and her remaining daughter Denver take in a woman named Beloved, who Sethe believes is the spirit of her deceased daughter.
- Beloved is demanding and gluttonous, draining Sethe and Denver's energy.
- The community successfully stages a cleansing to banish Beloved's toxic spirit.
Summary of the Novel
Mr. and Mrs. Garner owned Sweet Home, a farm where they used the slave labor of Paul F, Halle, Paul A, Paul D, and Sixo—although they treated their slaves with a modicum of respect, asking for their ideas and allowing them the use of rifles for hunting. Sethe, a young female slave, was bought and allowed to choose Halle for her husband. With the Garners’ permission, the two slaves were “married.” They had a family of two sons and a daughter before Mr. Garner became ill and died.
Prior to his death, Mr. Garner had allowed Halle the privilege of hiring his labor out so that he could buy his mother, Baby Suggs, out of slavery. At 60 years of age, Halle’s mother was a free woman and moved to the next state north, Ohio, where she rented 124 Bluestone Road from the anti-slavery Bodwins and became a spiritual leader (rather than a preacher since she preferred not to preach) and a mender of shoes.
After her husband’s death, the weak-willed Mrs. Garner became very ill. She complied when she was told she must have other whites in residence and invited schoolteacher and his two nephews to live with her and manage the farm, including the slaves. Schoolteacher and his nephews were a different breed than the Garners and introduced whippings, torture, humiliation, and the dehumanizing of the slaves, but Mrs. Garner was too ill to take heed. The slaves (with the exception of Paul F, who had been sold two years prior for the money needed to keep up the farm) decided to flee via the Underground Railroad. Sethe, pregnant again, had sent her two-year-old daughter and two older sons ahead with some of the other slaves when her husband, Halle, did not arrive to meet them in the predetermined place at the predetermined time.
She stayed behind to look for him but was caught by schoolteacher’s nephews who held her down and sucked milk from her breasts. Schoolteacher discovered that she told Mrs. Garner about the incident and whipped her, flaying open the skin of her back despite her being six month’s pregnant.
Unbeknownst to Sethe, her husband was in hiding in the loft where he had a view of the attack on her. Watching without being able to come to her aid drove him insane. Paul D was watching Halle, although unable to see what was happening to Sethe. At some undetermined time soon after, he saw Halle sit down and calmly smear the butter from the churn all over his face while his eyes remained vacant. Sethe managed to escape, but had to stop because her baby was being born. An indentured servant, Amy, happened upon her and helped her. The infant was named Denver, which was Amy’s last name.
Sethe reached her mother-in-law’s home with the newborn infant and was overjoyed to be reunited with her other three children. Soon after, Baby Suggs and Sethe hosted a picnic-barbecue for all the neighbors. The abundance of food and good times, in addition to Baby Suggs’ good fortune in having been bought out of slavery, driven to freedom in a wagon by her former master, and befriended by the Bodwins who rented her their two-story house (unlike the one-story houses everyone else lived in), led the neighbors and friends, who also were Baby Suggs’ congregation, to believe she and her family were “uppity.” Thereafter, the residents of 124 Bluestone Road found themselves being shunned...
(The entire section is 2,907 words.)