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Literature Study GuidesBelovedPart 1 Chapter 17 Summary

Beloved | Study Guide

Toni Morrison

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Part 1: Chapter 17

Kristen Over, Associate Professor at Northeastern Illinois University, provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Part 1: Chapter 17 of Toni Morrison's book Beloved.

Beloved | Part 1, Chapter 17 | Summary



Paul D is looking at a photograph in a newspaper clipping, saying, "That ain't her mouth." He can't read, but he knows it does not give good news. Stamp Paid begins to tell him about what happened in the shed the day schoolteacher came to 124. Paul D is still insisting that it is not Sethe's mouth, so Stamp Paid does not tell him the rest of the story.

What he does not tell Paul D is how Sethe recognized the hat of one of the four men, collected her children, and took them to the woodshed, in which there was only a saw. Instead, Stamp Paid reads the words written in the news story. Paul D only says that it is a mistake because that isn't Sethe's mouth. Stamp Paid almost wonders if it happened at all.


The theme of this chapter is expressed in the beginning, as it describes the old Native American burial ground Paul D passes through on his way home from his work at the slaughterhouse. The long history of brutality, loss, and restless spirits in this land is indicated even before Paul D is made aware of Sethe's tragedy. Paul D doesn't want to believe what Stamp Paid is telling him about Sethe. To him, the Sethe in the article is very different from the woman he knew at Sweet Home.

He tells Stamp Paid that it couldn't have been Sethe in the picture, even if he knows that it must be her. Paul D also does not want his feelings for Sethe and the chance for a future with her to be ruined. Even when Stamp Paid reads the words in the article, Paul D continues to deny that Sethe could act in such an evil way. Sethe's past is beginning to surface.

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