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Free Study Guide-Beloved by Toni Morrison-Free Online Booknotes Summary
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CHAPTER 17

Summary

As Paul D looks at a newspaper clipping that shows a picture of Sethe, he says over and over again to Stamp Paid that it is not Sethe's mouth. From the careful way that Stamp Paid unfolded the paper, Paul D knew that the news it contained would be upsetting. Since Paul D cannot read what the print says, he listens to Stamp Paid reading the story aloud. Even as Stamp Paid reads about the murder, Paul D will not stop looking at the picture or denying that it is Sethe.

After Stamp Paid reads the story, he blames the community for what happened on that fateful day. The neighbors could have warned Sethe and Baby Suggs about the approach of the four white men on horses. Then Sethe could have escaped with the children before their arrival. Since the community had grown jealous about Baby Suggs, Stamp Paid believes they were silent out of meanness. As Stamp Paid talks, Paul D continues to deny that it was Sethe. When Stamp Paid sees the "sweet conviction" in Paul D's eyes, he begins to wonder if it really did happen eighteen years ago. It all seems so vague to him now.

Notes

Paul D finds it impossible to accept that Sethe has tried to murder all her children and succeeded in killing one of them. As Stamp Paid reads the article about the murder to him, Paul D tries to deny it. It is certain that the article gave all of the horrid details of what happened in the woodshed since it was written by whites, all of whom tended to look down on blacks as basically savage people.


The news is too much for Paul D to take in. He looks at the picture of Sethe in the article and tries to convince himself it is not really her. He says over and over it is not Sethe’s mouth. In order to keep from taking in the full horror of the news, he also allows his mind to wander. He notices the pig feces on his shoes and thinks about how he walks home from the slaughterhouse through an ancient burial mound of the Miami Indians. (The ghosts of the past are present at every turn in the this novel.)

Morrison intentionally tells the story of Sethe from a different point of view. The first explanation of the murder of her child came from the prejudiced white men who came to find Sethe and take her back to slavery. Now Stamp Paid, who cares about Sethe, gives his interpretation of what happened on that fateful day. For him, it is important that the murder happened the day after Baby Suggs gave the celebration feast. The neighbors were down on Baby Suggs because she seemed to have more than they. As a result, when they saw the white men ride into town, the neighbors made no effort to warn Sethe or Baby Suggs of impending danger. He is convinced that they remained silent out of spite and meanness. If the neighbors had given a proper warning, he is convinced that the murder would have been avoided. Taken by surprise when she sees the white men, Sethe simply panicked and reacted, for she was determined that her children would never again suffer the cruelty of slavery. In her frightened mind, death seemed preferable.

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