Literature Study GuidesBelovedPart 1 Chapter 4 Summary

Beloved | Study Guide

Toni Morrison

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Part 1: Chapter 4

Kristen Over, Associate Professor at Northeastern Illinois University, provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Part 1: Chapter 4 of Toni Morrison's book Beloved.

Beloved | Part 1, Chapter 4 | Summary



Denver asks Paul D how long he is going to stay, which causes him to ask Sethe if he should leave. Even Sethe is surprised by how loudly she shouts, "No!" Sethe admonishes Denver and tells her to stay quiet. Paul D wants to know if Denver has asked the same question of other men who have come to her house, which angers Sethe. She tells Paul D to leave Denver alone. He thinks it is dangerous for any former slave to love a child as much as Sethe loves Denver.

They argue over Denver, and Paul D says he hopes there is room for him in Sethe's heart. He tells her that he will catch her before she falls and that he believes they can make a life together. Sethe watches their shadows holding hands as the three walk to the carnival. She believes it is a good sign. The carnival is exciting, and Paul D is delighted. Denver is pleased with the kind attention people are showing her. It is a single incident in which the three characters have a sense of what a normal family life might be for them.


Again the reader is reminded of the power of maternal love and of the dangers that love holds for those who have been enslaved. Denver is already trying to come between Sethe and Paul D and cast out Paul D, just as he has cast out her only companion. Yet the tone of the rest of the chapter is hopeful. As they walk to the carnival, Sethe sees an omen in their shadows holding hands. Even Denver, pleased by the attention she gets from others, feels that Paul D might be a positive influence in their lives. Morrison provides a glimpse of the life the characters might have had without the physical manifestation of Beloved, who will appear in the next chapter.

The carnival also gives the reader a glimpse of how racially divided Cincinnati is, despite the fact that Ohio was a free state. Sethe, Paul D, Denver, and their neighbors attend on the day set aside for "coloredpeople." They ignore the insults of the carnival performers for the sake of seeing "whitefolks making a spectacle of themselves."

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