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Literature Study GuidesBelovedPart 1 Chapter 18 Summary

Beloved | Study Guide

Toni Morrison

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Part 1: Chapter 18

Kristen Over, Associate Professor at Northeastern Illinois University, provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Part 1: Chapter 18 of Toni Morrison's book Beloved.

Beloved | Part 1, Chapter 18 | Summary



Paul D confronts Sethe with the clipping, expecting her to laugh, but instead Sethe explains what happened. She spins around the room as she talks, making Paul D feel dizzy. She wants to tell why she did it, something she has told to no one, not even Baby Suggs.

Sethe begins by telling Paul D how proud she was after getting the children to safety. Paul D doesn't understand the depth of the love she felt; he has always barely managed to protect himself and "loved small." Sethe tries to describe the selfish pleasure of freedom. She tells him that "I couldn't let all that go back to where it was," so she had to stop schoolteacher and put her children where they would be safe.

When Paul D tells Sethe that her "love is too thick," she tells him, "Thin love ain't love at all." Paul D tells her that her plan didn't work, but she disagrees; she kept her children from going back to Sweet Home. Paul D replies that there must have been another way and that she has "two feet ... not four." Later he wonders why he said that, after quietly leaving without really saying good-bye.


Again, the reader sees the intense love of a mother and how that love was ruined by slavery. That she wants to tell Paul D why she killed one daughter and tried to kill her other children shows she has deep feelings for him. She is afraid to tell him everything, for fear of losing him, but she knows it is time to unbury the memories of the past so that they can move on and have a future together. She loves all her children so much that she would rather they die than return to slavery. This is a potent testament to the terrors slaves endured.

Paul D has never loved anyone or anything so fiercely, so he doesn't understand Sethe's desperation. For him a love that made her willing to kill her children was too strong. By saying she has "two feet ... not four," he suggests she acted like an animal. With these words Paul D participates in the dehumanizing character of slavery, a point of irony, because he himself felt that Mister, the rooster, had more self-autonomy than he did. His comment is especially hurtful to Sethe, and her fears are realized: Paul D leaves her.

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