HomeLiterature Study GuidesBelovedPart 1 Chapter 5 Summary

Beloved | Study Guide

Toni Morrison

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Course Hero. (2016, July 28). Beloved Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved April 21, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Beloved/

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Course Hero. "Beloved Study Guide." July 28, 2016. Accessed April 21, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Beloved/.

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Course Hero, "Beloved Study Guide," July 28, 2016, accessed April 21, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Beloved/.

Beloved | Part 1, Chapter 5 | Summary

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Summary

A woman of 19 or 20 walks from the stream near 124 and sits down, leaning against a tree "all day and all night" as her wet dress dries. In the morning she goes through the woods and Denver's boxwood playhouse to sit on a stump near 124's steps.

When the three arrive home from the carnival, the strange woman is sitting in the yard. Sethe sees her face and immediately feels the need to urinate, which reminds her of her water breaking when Denver was born. The woman says she is thirsty and immediately drinks cup after cup of water. Paul D asks the woman her name; she replies in a raspy voice, "Beloved." They all wonder why she is there. Paul D begins to question her, but then stops. He knows how many former slaves have wandered without direction after the war, and he is puzzled by the rootless woman's soft skin and hands and new shoes. Sethe, however, feels kindly toward her because of her name, while Denver just shakes.

Beloved sleeps for four days, asking only for water. Denver nurses her with such dedication that she forgets to eat. Her mother admonishes her, and Denver tells her to leave them alone. Meanwhile, Sethe wonders where their dog, Here Boy, has gone. Denver says she just knows he won't be back. Beloved has nowhere to go, so she stays, moving around slowly, resting her head in her palm "as though it was too heavy for a neck alone." Paul D thinks there is "something funny 'bout that gal." He knows that she isn't really sick. He tells Sethe that he saw Beloved pick up the rocking chair with one hand. Denver, however, contradicts this story, even though she has witnessed it.

Analysis

The woman named Beloved causes a strange reaction in Sethe. She immediately has to urinate, "breaking" her water by the outhouse door as if she is about to give birth. The woman's link to Sethe's dead baby is established before readers know her name. Paul D begins to question her but stops. In his mind, the loss of identity experienced by those who have been enslaved could have been powerful enough to create her extreme rootlessness.

Denver immediately takes to Beloved. She cares for her as one would care for an infant. She is so involved, she loses what little she has of her sense of self. She even forgets to visit her "emerald closet" of boxwood bushes. Denver is adamant that she and Beloved be left alone. Her lie about Beloved's strength widens the gap between Denver and Paul D. The reader sees Denver's desperation for companionship; perhaps Beloved can take the place of all the siblings she has lost.

Is Beloved a real person, the incarnation of the dead baby, or a ghost? Morrison will never answer this question. The character is portrayed in this chapter as "born yesterday," but she has no memory and seems to be trying to get used to having a body.

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