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Free Study Guide-Beloved by Toni Morrison-Free Online Booknotes Summary
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CHAPTER 22

Summary

This surrealistic chapter is seen from the perspective of the “other side” and is narrated by Beloved, who exists only in the present time. She thinks "there will never be a time when I am not crouching and watching others who are crouching too . . . The iron circle is around our neck."

Beloved is waiting in water and looks down below “where the blue is and the grass." She sees a face down there and wants the face to smile at her. She realizes that the face she sees is her face, which looks up at her through the water. Her face comes through the water and leads her down to the grass below, where a woman is waiting. She follows the woman, who is Sethe. She whispers to Beloved and touches her. Beloved imagines that "she chews and swallows me." But then Beloved sees herself swim away. When she comes out of the water, she claims that she is not dead. When she opens her eyes, she again sees Sethe, who is smiling.

Notes

The first person narrative in this chapter represents the thoughts of a ghost, who is remembering how she has spent the last eighteen years of her existence. In order to capture the floating thoughts of an apparition, Morrison foregoes punctuation, leaving only spaces between words and capitalization. She also has Beloved exist only in the present, for earthly time has no meaning in the other world. Because she was killed as a young child, Beloved’s thought processes are not fully evolved into mature thinking.


Beloved is fully merged with the world around her. She does not recognize any boundaries, either between herself and her mother or between herself and the world. Everything seems to merge into one. She describes herself in a crowded place where food and water are scarce and where people are dead and dying. Men without skin are in charge, and the inhabitants wear iron collars that hurt them. Beloved’s description of “hell” is really a description of the condition of the slaves during the Middle Passage as they are collared and crowded into the hold of a slave ship. Although Beloved did not directly experience the hardships of the Middle Passage, she identifies with her ancestors and becomes one of them. Since many of the dead that surround her have been slaves who suffered greatly, she becomes one with them.

Although Beloved returns to earth in an adult body, she is still a child in the other world. She refers to herself as small and remembers events from her childhood. She can still see Sethe’s earrings and reflects on the day that Sethe carried her to the grape arbor and gathered flowers into a basket while her brothers played on the hill. Beloved also seems to have looked into the lives of other earthly beings. When she talks about the small animals looking at a child, it seems to be a reference to Denver's terrifying time in jail when rats stared at her and sometimes touched her.

In the other world, Beloved longs to be recognized by her mother. She imagines going down to see Sethe and being chewed and swallowed by her. Somehow she manages to escape and swim through the water back to the other world. Upon her return, she can still see Sethe’s smiling face.

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