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Literature Study GuidesBelovedPart 1 Chapter 15 Summary

Beloved | Study Guide

Toni Morrison

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Part 1: Chapter 15

Kristen Over, Associate Professor at Northeastern Illinois University, provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Part 1: Chapter 15 of Toni Morrison's book Beloved.

Beloved | Part 1, Chapter 15 | Summary



In a flashback, the reader learns that, in the days after Sethe and her children showed up at 124, Baby Suggs was afraid to celebrate until Halle showed up—"not wishing to hurt his chances by thanking God too soon." Then, 20 days after Sethe arrived, Stamp Paid came by to see the baby and mother he had rescued. Inspired by something only he understood, he went off to a hidden place and picked two buckets of blackberries. Baby Suggs wanted to show her gratitude by making some pies. The celebration began to snowball, and, when it was over, she had fed 90 people. After the party the guests became furious: they disapproved of the excess of her over-the-top generosity; "uncalled-for pride," they thought. Baby Suggs, working in the garden, smelled the disapproval all around her. Then she sensed something more—something "dark and coming" and "high-topped shoes she didn't like the look of."

Through another flashback deeper into the past, the reader learns how Baby Suggs came to 124. She had hurt her hip and so became a bargain that Mr. Garner took advantage of. He bought her and hauled her back to Kentucky, where Baby Suggs recalls "nobody knocked her down." She no longer had to work in the fields, instead helping Mrs. Garner cook and feed the chickens. Even so, her son Halle knew how much her injured hip bothered her. This is why he worked extra hard and bought her freedom.

Baby Suggs thought her freedom meant more to Halle than it ever would to her. When her feet touched land across the river, however, she discovered that he had known better than she the joy and fullness of freedom. Readers then learn that Baby Sugg's slave name was Jenny Whitlow, but she took her husband's name, Suggs, and the name he called her, Baby, as her name as a freed slave. Friends of Mr. Garner helped Baby Suggs get settled, renting a house to her in exchange for sewing and doing laundry. She began a search for her children, a search she finally gave up as a lost cause. Ultimately, she only knew of Halle and his wife and children.


Baby Suggs's reluctance to celebrate before Halle's return shows the love bond between mother and child. She is too used to the loss of family that most slaves endured and knows she may never see her son again. She tempts fate by holding a celebration anyway. The next day her neighbors feel she is boasting about her good fortune and begin to resent her.

Baby Sugg's premonition of something "dark and coming" is a foreshadowing of the central event of the novel: Sethe's murder of her child.

Readers will notice that Baby Suggs's story again undercuts the notion that there can be any such thing as "good" slave owners. Mr. Garner discovers only when he has freed her that she calls herself Baby Suggs and not Jenny Whitlow, the name written on her sales ticket when he bought her. How can this be, unless he never asked her? He insists upon his magnanimity in allowing her son to buy her out of slavery, but Baby Suggs knows that Mr. Garner will be renting Halle out for years to come to pay for her freedom. She has already endured so much horror, she feels there is nothing left that can hurt her emotionally.

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