Literature Study GuidesBelovedPart 1 Chapter 2 Summary

Beloved | Study Guide

Toni Morrison

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Part 1: Chapter 2

Kristen Over, Associate Professor at Northeastern Illinois University, provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Part 1: Chapter 2 of Toni Morrison's book Beloved.

Beloved | Part 1, Chapter 2 | Summary



Paul D can't believe his luck at finding Sethe, a woman whom he had always desired. Sethe and he have quick sex, followed by some shy awkwardness. But Paul D has second thoughts about his desire for her, now that he has been intimate with her. Her back is not a tree but rather just a "revolting clump of scars." He thinks about Brother, his name for his favorite tree at Sweet Home, and Sixo, his best friend there and another of the male slaves. "Now there was a man, and that was a tree," he thinks.

Sethe, similarly, begins to think Baby Suggs was right in having told her "maybe a man was nothing but a man." She is disappointed in herself for having allowed Paul D to take some of the weight off her shoulders and then disturb her house. She remembers Halle, her husband, and contrasts her six years of marriage to him with Baby Suggs's life. Baby Sugg's eight children had six fathers, and all of the kids had been sold, except for Halle. Sethe recalls her wedding night with Halle in a cornfield; Paul D thinks about eating the corn from the broken stalks afterward, its silk "fine and loose and free."


The brief hope that Paul D and Sethe have for each other quickly turns into disillusionment. Now put off by rather than attracted to the tree on Sethe's back, Paul remembers the trees at Sweet Home. In his mind he describes the farm as if it were Eden. The physical beauty of the place is a contrast to the brutal ugliness the slaves faced. The term men is used several times, bringing to mind the theme of loss of identity. Could slaves, who were mere property, ever be considered men? The plot will show that, while Sweet Home's first master, Mr. Garner, considered his male slaves men, the overseer schoolteacher quickly began to brutalize them. In fact, the cornsilk is the first of many objects and animals on the plantation to be described as freer than the slaves.

Sethe feels fortunate to have been married to the father of all her children—a human dignity that her mother-in-law, Baby Suggs, had been denied. Sethe has experienced powerful feelings of love and motherhood in bitter conflict with her life as a slave.

Both Sethe and Paul D remember some of their time at Sweet Home, under the Garners, with something approaching nostalgia. Mr. Garner's relatively benign treatment of his slaves, allowing them to marry and letting Halle work to buy his mother's freedom, is like a cruel trap that keeps the enslaved people on the plantation without giving them true freedom.

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