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Chapter 1

Part one of the novel begins with the sentence: "124 was spiteful." It is the year 1873, in a house a few miles outside Cincinnati, Ohio at the address 124 Bluestone Road. This is the house where Sethe and her daughter Denver live. Sethe's mother-in-law, Baby Suggs, is dead and Sethe's two sons, Howard and Buglar, ran away several years ago because the house is haunted. Baby Suggs spent her final days contemplating the gray Ohio sky, and she often asked Sethe and Denver for scraps of color especially pink and yellow. After Baby Suggs' death, Denver suggests to her mother that perhaps they should move but Sethe argues that there isn't a single house in the country that isn't haunted by some dead slave's ghost.
The ghost died as a child; she is, in fact, one of Sethe's children and her name is "Beloved" from the phrase "Dearly Beloved" which were the only two words that the minister said at her funeral. If the house is haunted, then Sethe is just as haunted by memories of Sweet Home, the plantation in Kentucky where she worked as a slave. When she walks in the fields beyond her backyard, Sethe is tormented by trees that suddenly become the trees of Sweet Home - beautiful but heavy with the hanging bodies of young men. Sethe thinks that her mind is playing tricks on her because when she returns to her house, she finds Paul D, "the last of the Sweet Home men," sitting on her porch. Sethe's husband, Halle, also worked at Sweet Home, and she hasn't seen Halle or Paul D since she left.
Paul D and Sethe are awkward when they reunite, as they have not seen each other in over eighteen years. Sethe informs Paul D that Baby Suggs died several years before, and when Sethe asks Paul D if he has any news regarding Halle, he replies that she knows just as much as he does. Sethe invites him into the house and he sees a flickering red light and asks Sethe what kind of evil she has living in the house. Sethe replies that the ghost isn't evil, but sad, and that it is a daughter of hers who would be about twenty years old. Sethe crossed the Ohio River in 1855 while she was pregnant with Denver, escaping from Kentucky to freedom in Ohio and she tells Paul D about how she was molested by her master's nephews who took her milk from her. As Paul D consoles her, Sethe recounts her whipping and begins crying in the kitchen as she reveals to Paul D, a "tree" of scars decorating the dead skin of her back. In the middle of Sethe's conversation, the baby ghost erupts again and Paul D successfully chases the ghost away, breaking a windowpane and a table leg in the process.

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points To Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8 and 9
Chapter 10 and 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14 and 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17 and 18
Chapter 19 and 20
Chapter 21 and 22
Chapter 23 and 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27 and 28


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