Literature Study GuidesBelovedPart 2 Chapter 19 Summary

Beloved | Study Guide

Toni Morrison

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Part 2: Chapter 19

Kristen Over, Associate Professor at Northeastern Illinois University, provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Part 2: Chapter 19 of Toni Morrison's book Beloved.

Beloved | Part 2, Chapter 19 | Summary



Stamp Paid hears loud voices as he approaches 124. He feels responsible for Paul D moving out and has come to check on Sethe and Denver. Stamp Paid feels particularly responsible for Denver after having rescued her from her mother in the woodshed. He has entered 124 only one time since that dreadful event, but he cannot bring himself to knock on the door. He tries over and over in the days to come.

Meanwhile, Sethe is trying to "lay it all down" as Baby Suggs suggested. She finds ice skates and takes the girls to a frozen creek, where they fall and laugh and have a good time. At the end, after the laughter has died away, Sethe cries in earnest. Back at 124 Beloved is humming. Sethe hears a click; she recognizes the song as one she had made up and sung to her children when they were babies. Sethe is at peace because she knows Beloved is her dead daughter who has come back to life.

Stamp Paid recalls a conversation with Baby Suggs sometime after Sethe had killed her child. She had stopped going to the Clearing, and Stamp Paid had tried to persuade her to go back, but without any success. After all those years, Stamp Paid finally understood that Baby Suggs was simply tired out. She could neither excuse nor condemn Sethe's choice to kill her children. Doing one or the other might have saved her, but she couldn't decide, so she went to bed and thought about colors. "The whitefolks had tired her out at last," Stamp Paid realizes.

Sethe decides to live peacefully with her two remaining children, not caring about or remembering anything. Still her mind is filled with memories. She recalls the baby's funeral and how all she heard were the words Dearly Beloved and how, for 10 minutes of sex with the gravestone carver, she had one word—Beloved—etched on her baby's tombstone. Sethe recalls how trusting she used to be of white people, but now she believes Baby Suggs was right: they are all bad luck. She remembers how schoolteacher measured her with a string and how she overheard him telling his students to "put her human characteristics on the left; her animal ones on the right." This was just one form of cruelty that appeared at Sweet Home under schoolteacher. Sixo and Halle made a plan for all of them to escape, but the plan went awry; Sethe and the children were the only ones who got out.

Stamp Paid believes the noises coming from 124 are mumblings of the angry dead slaves. He contemplates that white people believed that "under every dark skin was a jungle." He believes that, in a way, they are right, even if it was the cruelty of the whites that planted that jungle. Finally, after no one comes to the door when he does finally knock, Stamp Paid gives up trying to see Sethe, and the women in 124 are left to themselves.


Once again the author focuses on the theme of the brutality and dehumanization of slavery. Stamp Paid calls Sethe's unspeakable act "the Misery" because it is a direct consequence of the Fugitive Slave Act that permitted schoolteacher to appear at Baby Suggs's house and that caused Sethe to try to kill her children.

Stamp Paid had great respect for Baby Suggs, which is why he tries so hard to make things right with Sethe. His problem is that his pride gets in the way when he has to knock at Sethe's door. When he finally overcomes this obstacle and knocks, he is ignored and gives up his efforts. Stamp Paid has been the only remaining link between the women of 124 and the outside community, and his abandonment feels ominous.

The narrator repeats the line "Nobody saw them falling" as a foreshadowing of events to come. Eventually, the three women do fall into complete despair, even though Sethe is both tired and optimistic. She wants nothing more to do with people, even those who she has seen as "good." She is hopeful that the three women can have a life together inside 124.

Sethe's crime makes Stamp Paid think that slave owners are right: blacks are wild like animals in the jungle, capable of even unspeakable crimes. But he realizes that it was the whites, by treating them so brutally and inhumanely in the first place, who made them uncivilized. And through their treatment of the slaves, the whites became inhumane themselves. A vicious circle of dehumanization has been set in motion.

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