Beloved: Novel Summary: Section II Chapters 2-5
These are the first chapters that shift from third person to first person. All four start with some version of naming and claiming Beloved, such as Sethe's "Beloved, she my daughter. She mine." Chapter 2 is first person from Sethe's point of view. She is elated to have Beloved back in her life, and she then tells more about why she couldn't escape with her children when they left Sweet Home. She went out to meet the Underground Railroad in the corn, but Halle and the others weren't there. So, Sethe went back for Halle, sending her children on ahead of her. Then the boys held her down and nursed her milk and she told Mrs. Garner, for which they whipped her. Now, however, she has her daughters and she feels she does not have to explain herself because they understand her actions.
Chapter 3 is first person from Denver's point of view. She claims Beloved for her own because she is her sister. When Denver was a child, she went to an informal school for a little while, until one of the other children told her what Sethe had done to her children. Then, Denver stopped hearing and started hearing again only when the baby's ghost started crawling up the stairs in the house. So, she claims Beloved as hers because she was the first to recognize who the ghost was and was also the first to recognize the reincarnated woman. Denver loves her mother but has always been frightened that she will hurt her again, as were Buglar and Howard, which is why they left to go fight in the war. Denver has always been waiting for her father, who she believes is gentle, to come for her, and she now believes that Beloved has come to wait for their father with her.
Chapter 4 is first person from Beloved's point of view, and Beloved is claiming Sethe as her own. The writing style is very fragmented because she is describing the experience of being dead. She describes men without skin, who are white men, and how difficult it is to truly be dead. Some of the people move along into the water, being truly dead, but she finds that hard. She talks about seeing a woman's face that she wants when she is dead, but then the face is taken away. So, she pulls herself up to a bridge, and when she sees Sethe's face when she is sitting on the stump, she knows she has found the woman's face that she wanted.
Chapter 5 is dialogue between the three women, describing their love for and need to protect one another. Beloved wants to protect Sethe from white men, Sethe wants to protect Beloved from being dead, and Denver wants to protect Beloved from Sethe's violence. They are all tightly bound together by their strong love for and desire to possess one another.
The name "Beloved" comes from the word on Sethe's daughter's headstone. But it also comes from the Bible. The Song of Solomon says, "I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine." This is often thought of to describe the relationship between a man and a woman, but it actually is about the love between a human and God that can be manifested as the love between humans In the beginning of three chapters, Morrison rewrites this passage, talking instead about Beloved as a character. The dangerous and narrow love that excludes all others in this case takes a passage that should be about the love of God and turns it into a self-absorbed love for a person. That is dangerous, as the Song of Solomon can be read as loving another as a part of loving God. The love between these women excludes everyone, mortal and immortal.
However, the ability to name Beloved "She is Beloved" is taking the power of naming away from white people and locating it instead in the love between women. Done well, this could be very empowering. Women naming their daughters is a part of natural familial relationships that is taken away when people name their slaves whatever they wish. So, these passages are about reclaiming power through love, but that can be a very dangerous power if it excludes all others.
When Beloved describes the experience of being on the bridge, she is not just describing the journey between the land of the living and the land of the dead. She is also describing the middle passage, which was when slaves were brought over from Africa on ships. This was a difficult and dangerous journey, and it was hard to make it to the other side. When the slaves got here, they were changed, like Beloved is different after her journey. The middle passage is important in many slave narratives because it was such an excruciating experience that took civilized people and turned them into slaves.