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324 pages, Paperback
First published September 16, 1987
You are my sister
You are my daughter
You are my face; you are me
I have found you again; you have come back to me
You are my beloved
You are mine
You are mine"
"Sethe," [says Paul D], "me and you, we got more yesterday than anybody. We need some kind of tomorrow."
‘And O my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. and all your inside parts that they'd just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver--love it, love it and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.’
I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.Beloved is a special story. As it opens, Sethe, a Black woman in her late thirties, is living with her 18-year-old daughter, Denver, in a house that the neighbours avoid because it is haunted: "124 WAS SPITEFUL. Full of a baby's venom. The women in the house knew it and so did the children. For years each put up with the spite in his own way, but by 1873 Sethe and her daughter Denver were its only victims."
What she called the nastiness of life was the shock she received upon learning that nobody stopped playing checkers just because the pieces included her children.Everyone is astonished and appalled by this turn of events (which Morrison discovered in an old newspaper account of the period). Baby Suggs is never the same again; Sethe is shunned by her fellow citizens; Denver grows up isolated and suspicious. Morrison is careful, though, to indicate that while this is a pivotal event in the lives of everyone, it is not the climax, or the worst thing to have happened to Sethe and her loved ones.
“Sethe, if I’m here with you, with Denver, you can go anywhere you want. Jump, if you want to, ’cause I’ll catch you, girl. I’ll catch you ’fore you fall. Go as far inside as you need to, I’ll hold your ankles. Make sure you get back out. […] We can make a life, girl. A life.”Amongst many other things, Beloved is also a love story. And Sethe and Paul D are one of my favorite literary characters. Throughout the novel Sethe is scared of letting Paul D into her heart because "maybe a man was nothing but a man, which is what Baby Suggs always said." Life had let her down too many times to truly trust somebody and let herself fall. Over the course of the book Sethe reclaims her own worth, one that's separate from her children and her role as a mother, and therefore also reclaims her ability to love a man. Seeing their relationship blossom at the end and Paul D reassuring her of her own value actually made me cry.
“She left me.”Beloved is one of the few American novels that take every natural element of the novel form and exploit it thoroughly, but in balance with all the other elements. The result is that it is dense but not long, dramatic but not melodramatic, particular and universal, shocking but reassuring, new but at the same time closely connected to the tradition of the novel, and likely to mould or change a reader's sense of the world.
“Aw, girl. Don’t cry.”
“She was my best thing.”
“Sethe,” he says, “me and you, we got more yesterday than anybody. We need some kind of
He leans over and takes her hand. With the other he touches her face. “You your best thing, Sethe.
You are.” His holding fingers are holding hers.
"Jump, if you want to, ‘cause I’ll catch you, girl. I’ll catch you ‘fore you fall."
"He leans over and takes her hand. With the other he touches her face. ‘You your best thing, Sethe. You are.’ His holding fingers are holding hers."
"In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it. They don’t love your eyes; they’d just as soon pick em out. No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ’cause they don’t love that either. You got to love it, you! And no, they ain’t in love with your mouth. Yonder, out there, they will see it broken and break it again. What you say out of it they will not heed. What you scream from it they do not hear. What you put into it to nourish your body they will snatch away and give you leavins instead. No, they don’t love your mouth. You got to love it. This is flesh I’m talking about here. Flesh that needs to be loved."