Notes on Beloved Themes

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Beloved Topic Tracking: Supernatural

Topic Tracking: Supernatural

Chapter 1 & 2

Supernatural 1: The description of the baby ghost knocking a pot of chickpeas to the floor, shattering a mirror, putting handprints in a cake, and leaving a line of crumbled crackers near the doorsill, introduces the element of the supernatural in the story. This presence of the unexplainable is a key element of the story because it makes possible the blending of Beloved with the daughter Sethe murdered. The supernatural becomes a part of everyday reality.

Supernatural 2: The family hasn't kept the ghost a secret, and belief in the supernatural extends beyond just this family and into the community. This makes it possible for them to also believe that Beloved is the reincarnate of Sethe's dead daughter.

Supernatural 3: When Paul D is walking in 124 for the first time, he encounters, "a pool of red and undulating light that locked him where he stood." Chapter 1, pg. 8 The light is the baby's ghost, and when he walks through it, he is overcome by a wave of grief. When he is introduced to the supernatural in 124, it paves the way for his belief that Beloved has a power over him and that she is an evil spirit.

Supernatural 4: The baby ghost picked up the dog and flung him against the wall so hard that it dislocated his eye, and broke two of his legs, sending him into convulsions that made him chew up his tongue. Here the ghost is given physical power so that it becomes not only a presence, but also a violent element in the household.

Supernatural 5: When Paul D is kissing Sethe's back, the house reacts. The floorboards were trembling and "the house itself was pitching." Chapter 1, pg. 18 He grabs a table that flew at him and swings it around like a weapon while shouting at the ghost to leave Sethe alone. When he's done, the house is quiet. This seems hard to believe, but the ghost has been established as physically powerful and violent; we either have to believe that the house really moved, or all the main characters are suffering from some sort of mass delusion brought on by the trauma of their lives as slaves.

Chapter 3 & 4

Supernatural 6: Denver looks in the window at her mother kneeling beside Baby Suggs' bed, and a white dress kneels beside her with its sleeve around Sethe's waist. Denver thinks it's a sign that the baby ghost has plans. Denver is the only one who sees this ghost, and she is also the one who is desperate for company, so it is still questionable whether the audience should believe in ghosts or see that the characters are projecting their own hopes and fears into hallucinations.

Chapter 7 & 8

Supernatural 7: Beloved invites Denver to dance with her by saying, "'Come on, you may as well just come on,'" Chapter 8, pg. 74 which is the phrase Sethe and Denver used to call out to the ghost after Baby Suggs died. Denver makes the connection and asks Beloved to describe where she was before she came to 124 because Denver is convinced that Beloved is the baby girl come back from the dead.

Chapter 9 & 10

Supernatural 8: Sethe feels Baby Suggs' fingers massaging her neck when she goes to the Clearing to talk to her about what's she's learned about Halle. The fingers start out gentle, but then they strangle her and she has to break away. Once she has broken away, Beloved is rubbing the bruises and she leans up to kiss them, but Sethe jerks away because her breath smells like new milk, the way a baby's breath would smell after nursing. She thinks that Beloved was behaving like a two-year-old, roughly the same age as Sethe's daughter when she killed her. She also notices that Beloved and Denver behave like sisters. All of these connections pave the way to Sethe's belief that Beloved is her daughter come back from the dead. Sethe needs to believe that her daughter will come back and forgive her and understand why Sethe killed her.

Supernatural 9: Denver thinks that Beloved choked Sethe in the Clearing, and that she used the powers she had as a ghost to hurt Sethe. Again, Denver is on her own with this belief; she is still the only one who considers Beloved the ghost in the flesh.

Chapter 11 & 12

Supernatural 10: Paul D has always felt that there's something strange about Beloved, but it hasn't affected him until she starts pushing him away from Sethe. He believes she is using her power to move him farther and farther from Sethe's bed at night. It could be a supernatural occurence, or it could be a way for Paul D to shed the blame for his indiscretions with Beloved.

Supernatural 11: Denver and Beloved are in the cold house when Beloved seems to disappear. Denver opens the door and looks around the small room, but can't find her anywhere. Just as Denver is about to unhinge because she thinks Beloved left her, Beloved reappears. Denver experiences several moments of a supernatural nature with Beloved. Perhaps these experiences are real, or perhaps Denver is emotionally detached because of her past. She has grown up alone in a house, with a mother who tried to kill her when she was a baby, and who successfully killed her older sister. Such a past is bound to have some harmful psychological effects.

Chapter 19 & 20

Supernatural 12: Stamp Paid hears voices around 124 whenever he passes by, and he believes the ghost has come back since Paul D left. Also an ex-slave, this man has seen the hideous injustice of slavery and the horror that whitefolks have inflicted on his race. Belief in the supernatural is psychologically necessary in order to survive through the loss and pain the characters have suffered.

Supernatural 13: When Sethe, Denver, and Beloved return from ice-skating, they warm themselves by the fire and Beloved begins humming a song Sethe made up for her children years before. In her mind, Sethe's children are the only ones who could know that song. This is what finally makes Sethe believe Beloved is her daughter. Sethe is so psychologically and emotionally weakened from loss, it becomes easy for Beloved to fill the emptiness of her lost daughter.

Chapter 21 & 22

Supernatural 14: Denver remembers that during the time when she was deaf, she could hear the sound of the baby ghost breathing in time with her own. Her hearing finally came back when she heard the sound of the ghost crawling up the stairs she loved to climb when she was alive. Denver is the only one who can attest to her loss of hearing. The supernatural, in the form of the ghost, becomes Denver's only companion.

Chapter 27 & 28

Supernatural 15: The townspeople aren't certain what happened to Beloved, but some of them (those who thought she was a ghost) believed that she exploded or simply vanished from the front porch of 124. Others think she ran away, a theory that is supported by the fact that a boy, at the stream behind 124, saw a naked woman running through the woods. Many characters believe in the supernatural explanation for Beloved's disappearance. However, the fact that a boy saw Beloved running through the woods, exposes a more realistic explanation. It also supports the idea that the supernatural elements of the novel are psychological creations of the main characters that help them to deal with the pain, loss, and terror of life as a slave.

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