Week 9, “Beloved”

“She and Mrs. Garner were the only women there, so she decided to ask her.

“Halle and me want to be married, Mrs. Garner.”

“So I heard.” She smiled. “He talked to Mr. Garner about it. Are you already expecting?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Well, you will be. You know that, don’t you?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Halle’s nice, Sethe. He’ll be good to you.”

“But I mean we want to get married.”

“You just said so. And I said all right.”

“Is there a wedding?”

Mrs. Garner put down her cooking spoon. Laughing a little, she touched Sethe on the head, saying, “You are one sweet child.” And then no more.”

This passage is from page 31.

In this passage Sethe is asking Mrs. Garner for a wedding for herself and Halle. Mrs. Garner was the owner of Sweet Home and the slaves that worked there. She doesn’t seem to be too interested in what Sethe is asking for. She mentions that Halle is a good person for Sethe. When Sethe asks if there is a wedding, it’s clear that she wants to have a ceremony, but Mrs. Garner laughs and calls her a sweet child. She fails to take Sethe seriously, and calls her a child because of the fantasy that she desires. I think this is showing one thing in the life of a slave, you can’t get what you desire. From what I interpreted, Mrs. Garner, like any other slave owner, didn’t care for the slaves working in her home. She only asked Sethe if she was pregnant, which she wasn’t, and that she will have to get pregnant. This passage displays that concept of marriage among slaves, which was prohibited because they were thought to be obligated to their owners instead of to each other. Also, their children were to be taken away from them. This passage is significant because it shows that these people who were slaves had no free will. They couldn’t live how they wanted to live, and couldn’t live with the people they wanted to live with. Even their children were taken away from them.


Rendezvous (Beloved/Part 1/Page 29)
Pronunciation: ren-dez-vous

-A meeting with someone that is arranged for a particular time and place and that is often secret.
-A place where people agree to meet at a particular time.
-A place where many people go to spend time.

Context: “Now it was too late for the rendezvous to happen at Redman’s house, so they dropped where they were.

Source: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rendezvous


The passage I choose to reflect on is found in chapter one when Sethe first reunited with Paul D.

“I got a tree on my back and a haint in my house, and nothing in between but the daughter I am holding in my arms. No more running from nothing.  I will never run from another thing on earth.  I took one journey and I paid the ticket, but let me tell you something, Paul D Garner: It cost too much! Do you hear me?  It cost too much.  Now sit down and eat with us or leave us be.”

In this passage Sethe’s grief about her troubled life was on display to Paul D and her daughter Denver after Paul D suggested she move from the house at 124.   The tree on her back was the pattern of scars from whipping  she received while living as a slave at Sweet Home.   She was powerless in her home because the baby ghost who haunted her house could at any given time cause supernatural things to occur.  She said, “this haint my house,” in this manner to indicate the absurdity of the situation.  Between the sorrow of what was happening in her home and caring for her daughter Denver she had nothing else in between to look forward to.   Because she had a very bad experience when she ran away to be with her children, she was prepared to stay and face her problems rather than revisit the horrors she had endured when she first ran away.  She felt when she ran away the cost was too much, not in terms of money but in terms of the emotional and psychological problems that she encountered that was vividly imprinted in her memory.  Repeatedly telling Paul D, “it cost too much,” indicate that her statement has deeper meaning than money.  She gave him the ultimatum to sit down and eat or leave because she felt that she was the one who was  living in that terrible situation and was capable of knowing when to leave.


A Better Understanding of “Beloved”

The passage I want to get a better understanding is in Page 19-20. It states, “I had milk,” she said. “I was pregnant with Denver but I had milk for my baby girl. I hadn’t stopped nursing her when I sent her on ahead with Howard and Buglar…” “All I knew was I had to get my milk to my baby girl. Nobody was going to nurse her like me. Nobody was going to get it to her fast enough, or take it away when she had enough and didn’t know it. Nobody knew that she couldn’t pass her air if you held her up on your shoulder, only if she was lying on my knees. Nobody knew that but me and nobody had her milk but me. I told that to the women in the wagon. Told them to put sugar water in cloth to suck from so when I got there in a few days she wouldn’t have forgot me. The milk would be there and I would be there with it.” “Men don’t know nothing much,” said Paul D, tucking his pouch back into his vest pocket, “but they do know a suckling can’t be away from its mother for long.” “Then they know what it’s like to send your children off when your breast are full.” “We was talking ‘bout a tree, Sethe.” “After I left you, those boys came in there and took my milk. That’s what they came in there for. Held me down and took it. I told Mrs. Garner on em. She had that lump and couldn’t speak but her eyes rolled out tears. Them boys found out I told on em. Schoolteacher made one open up my back and when it closed it made a tree. It grows there still.” “They used cowhide on you?” “And they took my milk.” “They beat you and you was pregnant?” “And they took my milk!”

I believe this passage is stating that Sethe was pregnant with Denver at the plantation, Sweet Home, but as a slave the children that she bore did not belong to her. Earlier in the text, it states that her other children, Howard and Buglar, were taken away, so I believe the plantation owners did not want Sethe to wean her child less there be any mother and child bond. The children that Sethe bore was just another piece of property to Sweet Home owners that can be used in the fields of that plantation. Therefore, the plantation owners stole Sethe’s milk, so that she did not get attached to her child.   Furthermore, in the process of stealing Sethe’s milk, the plantation owners “open up her back” or broke the skin of her back by whipping her with cowhide. With the whippings that she received, her wounds eventually gave a scar that looked like a tree.

This scene was a reality to many blacks during the times of slavery in America (1600-1800’s). Slaves that had masters (plantation owners) were physically and emotionally branded and debased by the whippings of their owner. Also, if you look at a picture of a slave’s back after they got whipped, the scars looks liked a tree growing on their back. This scene also reminds me of the film, Glory. In, Glory, Private Trip, Denzel Washington, is accused of deserting his company, so, his superior officer, who is white, flogs him. In that scene, when you look at Private Trips back you can see the “tree” or scars from the many whippings he has endured as a slave. Furthermore, in Glory, the setting of the story is in the late 1800’s during the time of the civil war. So, maybe Beloved was also in that time period or earlier than the civil war.

Close readings of Beloved through p. 100

We’ve started an interesting discussion about setting, characterization, narration, and plot in Beloved. I’ve set up a poll (see the sidebar) to see globally what you’re thinking about the novel. To take our thoughts into the text and focus more carefully on it for this week’s homework, choose a passage that stands out to you, one that you want to spend more time thinking about. Write a post that includes the following:

  • the passage, for all of us to read (you probably want to choose something about a paragraph long so you have enough material to focus on, but it might instead be a section of dialog or a piece of a longer paragraph)
  • what you understand the passage is saying. This is a chance for you to say what the passage says, but in your own words. You might decipher any difficult or figurative language, or clarify any references to previous plot points. This is like a translation of the passage into language we will all understand clearly.
  • what  you think it means: this is where you analyze the language and ideas in the paragraph. What is significant about it, and why? This is where you can look closely at particular words or images and analyze their meaning.

Posts should be approximately 350-450 of your own words in addition to the passage.

Choose the category Homework and subcategory Week 9, and the tag Beloved, plus any additional tags you want to add or create.

Finally, please read your classmates’ posts and click the thumbs-up if this is a passage you want us to discuss further.


a : to catch the breath audibly in a spasmodic contraction of the throat
b : to cry or weep with convulsive catching of the breath
In the context, the word sobbing means: that Denver had difficulty speaking. She was probably crying and she lost her breath.
“But Denver was shaking now and sobbing so she could not speak.” (P.9 line 4)
Source: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sobbing


Undulating (verb) – to present a wavy appearance.

This was found in “Beloved,” on page 10, paragraph 2. “Paul D tied his shoes together, hung them over his shoulder and followed her through the door straight into a pool of red and undulating light that locked him where he stood.”

The lighting in the house that locked on Paul D was red and appeared to be wavy.


Salsify (noun) – a European biennial composite herb (Tragopogon porrifolius) with a long fusiform edible root —called also oyster plant, vegetable oyster.

This was found in “Beloved,” on page 17, in the first paragraph. “She who had never had one but this one; she who left a dirt floor to come to this one; she who had to bring a fistful of salsify into Mrs. Garner’s kitchen every day just to be able to work in it, feel like some part of it was hers, because she wanted to love the work she did, to take the ugly out of it, and the only way she could feel at home on Sweet Home was if she picked some pretty growing thing and took it with her.”

Baby Suggs had to bring a handful of an edible root everyday into Mrs. Garner’s kitchen

in reading a bit of the chapter one of beloved, it feels like a person was living in a memory and the history of slavery and  someone is trapped in their past life living with a sense of fear. as you read in chapter 1 she assumes that there is a ghost in the house wish you lived in Ohio. the death of her daughter and her experience in sweet home was very sad I would think. as reading it feels like she still was living in her past which is slavery. she has been free for a very long time but still has the memories of slavery. That’s just my opinion. also I am predicting that this person it’s going to be trapped freedom because she still living in the past.

Beginning the story “Beloved”

In Beloved, We focus on the three main characters; Seethe, Denver, and Paul D. with Beloved’s entrance into the story. I think this is around the time of the Civil War, because there is mention of a war. I believe this is a third person narrative (omniscient) because we are really in the thoughts and memories of all the characters. I also feel that this is an unreliable narrator, that a lot of symbolism is incorporated in the story. In fact, I had a real hard time of following the story in the first 30 pages. I really felt the author could have been a little more real in her telling. After that she seemed to space out her imagination and really tell the story. I really liked how Paul D. came around in trying to start his life over. Becoming a supporting man and helping to take care of Seethe and Denver. The carnival was a great way to open their eyes to more than what they thought about themselves. I personally do not like to read about rape and abuse, so this story already leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I have to assume that the author is portraying these hardships so that there is a happy ending. I personally came from a place that no human would want to be in, and now I getting ready to land my second degree in four years, so that is what I am hoping;– that the author is going to turn this pain around. Beloved’s entrance in this story is really amazing as she describes things that are in her memory. It really makes me think that she is really Seethe’s daughter. I also see Paul as the mediator between what is real and what is fantasy. So at this point in the story, I think the main symbolism is that Seethe and Denver have opened their arms in being able to accept Beloved, which negates the painful way she died. Which actually I am not sure of yet. I see Paul D. trying to figure out what is really happening. Though showing the house as haunted early in the story tells me that this is about a girl who has come back to life. So I assume that ghosts are real in this story. And it is up to me, not to read to much into it. I have read many great stories that has things that are not real. The Redwall Series of animals running their kingdom. Hobbits and elves having great adventures. And the Shannara Chronicles written by Terry Brooks. This is not a Tom Clancy novel and I shouldn’t expect it to be.