Notes on Beloved Themes

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Beloved Topic Tracking: Loss

Chapter 1 & 2

Loss 1: In explaining the situation at 124, the loss of several family members is described. The boys, Buglar and Howard, left, and Baby Suggs died. Sethe and Denver have lost several people who were important to them. Loss appears throughout the story with every major character, and it seems to characterize the time in which they lived. Slavery separated families and deprived the characters from living their own lives, leaving them without a sense of self-worth.

Loss 2: Sethe remembers the baby girl who died before she was two-years-old, and Baby Suggs talks about losing all of her children with the exception of Halle. They were taken away too young for her to know them well enough to remember them in great detail. Slavery took away her children, and time took away any detailed memories she had of each of them.

Loss 3: Sethe describes schoolteacher and his nephews taking the milk she was saving for her baby girl to Paul D. A substance her own body made to nourish her child was taken from her by whitemen just for sport. She not only lost the one resource she could give her baby, but also lost any dignity she had left before that moment. This event and her subsequent beating, are the catalysts for her solo escape to Ohio.

Loss 4: Denver is distraught and angry after Paul D scares away the ghost. It was the only companion she had after losing her brothers and Baby Suggs. Loss of companionship is a large part of Denver's life, because life at 124 has become so lonely.

Loss 5: Baby Suggs learned not to love anything too much after realizing her children could be taken away from her at the whims of whitefolks. She didn't that slaveowners could be so cruel until her first child was taken away from her. The realization that her children were marketable, and subject to being sold, was a hard lesson for Baby Suggs to learn. Afterwards, she became cautious not to become to close when caring for people.

Chapter 5 & 6

Loss 6: Sethe tells Beloved about the mother she never really knew. The one memory she has of speaking with her mother, was when the woman showed her a brand on her rib that was a circle around a cross to identify her if anything were to happen. Not long after that, the woman was hanged and Sethe was pulled away before she was able to see the brand. The loss of her own family as a small girl, motivated Sethe to love her children more than Baby Suggs, Paul D and even Ella.

Chapter 9 & 10

Loss 7: Denver loses her hearing and her ability to leave 124 after Nelson Lord asks her if her mother went to jail for murder and took Denver with her. She had been attending Lady Jones' school and was doing well, but when she lost her hearing, she also lost her life outside of 124. This is another example of how Denver has lost companionship.

Chapter 11 & 12

Loss 8: When Beloved seems to disappear, Denver is distraught. She has lost too much, and losing one more companion would be too much for her to take. She has lost her father, her sister, her brothers, her grandmother, the company at Lady Jones' school, the ghost and now Beloved; this final loss makes her want to die.

Chapter 15 & 16

Loss 9: The story of Sethe murdering her baby reveals Sethe's desperation to prevent her daughter from being owned by someone and subjected to their whims and cruelties. As much as she loved the little girl, and even though she had walked so far to get to her, killing her is easier than losing her to slavery.

Chapter 19 & 20

Loss 10: Sethe has endured another loss after Paul D left. The man who she was planning her future around has abandoned her because he can't reconcile Sethe's killing of her own child to prevent her being sold into slavery. Although slavery has been abolished, she is still subject to the loss of friends and family because of the aftermath.

Chapter 21 & 22

Loss 11: Beloved describes how she can see the woman she yearns for, but can't reach her. Something is always in the way. And then, just when she thinks the woman is going to smile at her, she leaves. This woman has abandoned Beloved; Beloved has lost her. Enslaved alone for most of her life, Beloved feels the loss she remembers as a constant reminder of the cruelty of slavery.

Chapter 27 & 28

Loss 12: Sethe is convinced that when Beloved left, she lost "her best thing." Chapter 27, pg. 272 This loss has left her resigned to waste away in bed because she has finally lost everything; she has lost her baby girl twice. Sethe is destined to lose anything that means too much to her. She never learned to deal with the fact slaves, even ex-slaves, shouldn't care too much for anything because whitefolks control everything and can take that loved thing away on a whim.

Loss 13: Beloved is lost forever because she had no real identity. No one knew her, loved her, or remembered her when she left 124. There is no one to know that she was ever a real person, and for that reason, she is forever lost. This loss of identity and loss of family is a direct result of being enslaved. She was taken away from her family and locked away alone for much of her lifetime by a man who did not even consider her human enough to name her. She has no name, and no family, and therefore no identity. Beloved herself is lost.

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