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Free Study Guide-Beloved by Toni Morrison-Free Online Booknotes Summary
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CHAPTER 12

Summary

Denver constantly vies for Beloved’s attention. For the lonely, isolated girl, looking at Beloved is "food enough to last." Beloved, however, does not pay Denver attention very often. When she does look at Denver, Beloved seems to be saying that she needs something. Denver would gladly give it to her if only she knew what it was.

When Sethe asks Beloved questions about her past, Beloved replies that she "remembered a woman who was hers and she remembered being snatched away from her." She also says that she remembers the bridge and knowing one white man. Sethe tells Denver that she thinks Beloved has been locked up by some white man for sexual purposes, just like Ella. A white father and his son had locked Ella up for more than a year to do unimaginable things with her.

If Beloved endured similar treatment by a man, it explains for Sethe why Beloved hates Paul D so much.

Denver knows that Sethe’s explanation is not true. She is certain that Beloved is “the true-to-life presence of the baby,” the ghost in human form. She also knows what goes on in the cold house, but she does not tell Sethe. Denver also refuses to ask Beloved too many questions, for she does not want to drive her away. Denver learns, however, that if she explains things she can capture Beloved’s attention. While Sethe is at work, she tries to occupy Beloved’s time, for she knows that when her mother returns, Beloved will have eyes only for her. To capture Beloved’s attention during the day, Denver talks about every chore in great detail and tells Beloved many facts about the people she has known or seen. At night, Denver shares her room with Beloved. On some nights, Beloved tells Denver stories; on other nights, Beloved leaves the room to go to the cold house to be with Paul D; and sometimes Beloved cries herself to sleep.

Denver takes Beloved to the cold house with her to get cider. When she opens the door to the cold house, Denver spies the pallet on which Paul D has been sleeping for a month. When the door closes, it is very dark inside, and Denver cannot find Beloved. When she calls to her, Beloved says, "Come find me.” Still unable to find Beloved, Denver grows frightened and gropes to find the door. When she pushes it open, she sees that Beloved is nowhere inside the cold room. She feels she has been deserted once again, like when Paul D came and took her mother away. In her misery, Denver cries because "she has no self." She thinks about staying in the cold house forever, letting the darkness swallow her up. If Beloved has abandoned her to go back to the spirit world, she feels she cannot bear it.


Suddenly Beloved returns out of nowhere. Denver tells her she feared that Beloved had crossed back over to the other world. Beloved responds that she does not want that place again. Beloved then points to the sunlight coming through the cracks of the boards above them. She vanishes again, telling Denver that the face is now "over there." When Denver asks her whose face, she only responds, "Me. It's me." Denver sees nothing.

Notes

Just as Beloved craves for recognition, so does Denver; and just like Beloved, Denver is jealous of Paul D. Denver has longed to be truly valued by Sethe, but her mother is too preoccupied with the past to give her daughter what she needs. It is not surprising, therefore, that the lonely and isolated Denver is immediately attracted to Beloved and feels in her the return of family and communion with another. In fact, Denver is so desperate to have Beloved’s attention that she puts forth all of her effort to gain it. During the day, while Sethe is away at work, she tries to keep Beloved by her side by explaining the smallest details of the chores and by telling her the most unimportant facts about the people she has known and seen. Denver knows that when Sethe returns from work, Beloved will not have any time for her.

Denver instinctively knows that she cannot push Denver too far or she will drive her away. As a result, she walks a fine line. She does not tell Sethe about Beloved’s adventures in the cold room; neither does she ask Beloved too many questions. When Denver and Beloved go to the cold house to get cider, Denver is afraid that she has again lost her “sister” to the other world, for Beloved simply disappears in the darkness. Denver opens the door to let some light into the room, but Beloved is nowhere to be found. Denver loses control and thinks she will dissolve into nothingness if Beloved has abandoned her; she has already lost Baby Suggs, Buglar, Howard, and Sethe. When Beloved suddenly reappears, she curls into a fetal position and appears like an infant. Returning to herself, Beloved is fascinated with her own face, which bears a likeness to the face of Denver.

By this point in the novel, Morrison has developed several roles for the mysterious Beloved, the woman brought out of hell. To Paul, she is his lover who has awakened his emotions once again; to Denver, she is a friend who breaks the loneliness and isolation of her existence; and to Sethe, she is a substitute daughter for the one she has lost. All three find in the supernatural Beloved that which they cannot find in the reality of each other.

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