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Free Study Guide-Beloved by Toni Morrison-Free Online Booknotes Summary
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A fully dressed woman walks out of the water. She is exhausted and must sit down to rest. She stays all day and all night at the foot of a mulberry tree. The next day she travels to 124 Bluestone.

When Denver, Sethe, and Paul D arrive home from the carnival, they discover the woman, shivering from being wet and drowsing on the stump of the tree. When Sethe gets close enough to see the womanís face, she cannot believe her eyes. Her bladder immediately fills to capacity, and she has to run around to the back of the house to relieve herself. She urinates for so long that she is reminded of the breaking of water before a baby is born. Only one other time in her life has she had such an emergency. At the time, she was a young slave girl separated from her parents. When someone pointed out her mother to her for the first time, her bladder filled in the same manner as when she looked at the young woman drowsing in her front yard.

When Sethe enters the house, she finds Paul D and Denver have taken the woman inside and given her water, which she is drinking by the cupful. When the woman looks at her, Sethe notices her flawless skin, which has no wrinkles. The only thing that mars its beauty is a series of three vertical scratches on her forehead.

In a low, rough voice, the woman introduces herself, saying that her name is Beloved. She then spells out the name slowly. Paul D asks her last name, but she does not give one. He decides not to ask who her people are. He realizes that such a young, drifting African- American woman probably has no family. He wonders, however, where she got her new shoes.

When Sethe hears the womanís name, she immediately feels tender towards her because her name reminds Sethe of the one word on her daughter's gravestone. Denver, who is eager to have any kind of companionship, also takes a liking to the woman and shakes with excitement about her presence. Realizing how tired the stranger is, Paul D takes her up to a room to sleep.

Because of her exhaustion, Beloved sleeps for days. Denver tends her with great care and patience, nursing her back to health and relishing her company. Seeing the two of them together, Sethe understands how lonely Denver has been.

Even after Beloved grows stronger, she stays on at 124 Bluestone. Paul D is bothered by her presence, but Sethe and Denver want her to stay longer. Despite her prolonged visit, Beloved shares very little information about herself. Sethe and Paul D wonder if the fever perhaps caused her to have amnesia. They do learn that she is nineteen or twenty years old, even though she moves like a heavy, old woman.

Paul D is totally puzzled by Beloved. She is still so weak that she can barely walk. One day, however, Paul D sees her pick up a heavy rocking chair with one hand. He does not understand the disparity and feels even more uncomfortable about Belovedís presence.


The arrival of Beloved is symbolically the return of Sethe's past. The ghost of Sethe's baby girl has disappeared from the house, chased away by Paul D. Now Beloved physically appears as a young woman of twenty, the same age that Setheís baby would be, had she lived. When Sethe gets a good look at the woman, she cannot believe her eyes and has to run to relieve herself. It is obvious that the woman reminds Sethe of her deceased daughter. When Sethe relieves herself, she is reminded of her water breaking before giving birth to a child. She also thinks about how she gave birth to Denver in a boat. Her thoughts then turn to the time she saw her own mother for the first time.

Everyone at 124 Bluestone has a different reaction to Beloved. Denver is beside herself with excitement to have a companion. She takes on the role of nursemaid and cares for Beloved during her recovery. Sethe feels tender towards the young woman, for she is a reminder to her of her own dead daughter - in name, age, and appearance. Paul D is the only one who feels uneasy about Beloved. He is bothered by the fact that she will not give her last name or answer his questions; he also wonders if she might be suffering from cholera or amnesia. The family dog, named Here Boy, also has a strange reaction to Beloved. The dog refused to ever come in the house when the ghost supposedly lived inside it. When Paul D chased the ghost away, Here Boy came back inside. Now the dog, sensing there is something wrong with Beloved, takes one look at her and runs away.

Through her descriptions, Morrison makes it clear that Beloved is the embodiment of Setheís dead daughter. Her perfect, unlined skin is like that of a newborn. Her head wobbles as if she were unable to hold it up, just like a newborn. The fact that Beloved emerges from water also suggests that she is a newborn, just emerged from the motherís womb.

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