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Free Study Guide-Beloved by Toni Morrison-Free Online Booknotes Summary
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"Sixty Million and More."


"I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved which was not beloved." (Romans 9:25).


Morrison's first epigraph refers to the number of slaves killed from the time of the Middle Passage. In naming the number so starkly, not saying anything further about it, Morrison pays testament to the horrendous crime of the slave trade and the genocide it engendered. Through this first brief epitaph, the author reminds her readers of the frightening history of the slaves.

Morrison's second epigraph comes from the New Testament in a letter from St. Paul to the Romans. In the letter, Paul encourages the new Christians in Rome by promising them that they are God’s people and will receive God’s love through grace. God’s promise of love and forgiveness comes even though the new Christians do not deserve to be beloved. The Biblical quote is a fitting beginning for a novel that deals with love and forgiveness. It seems to promise the newly freed slaves that they are also beloved of God.

The epigraph also creates the tone for the opening chapter of the novel, which deals with Beloved, the destructive ghost of Sethe’s daughter, who causes problems for Sethe. Although Beloved was never a slave, she was a victim of slavery, for Sethe killed her so she would never have to endure the hardships of slavery like her mother. Even though Sethe is guilty of murder, she can be forgiven; but she will also have to suffer.

The words of Paul in the epigraph are followed by a promise of relief from suffering: "For He will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth." The verse indicates that no one will suffer too long on earth, for the Lord will come back to finish His work and claim his believers.

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