Beloved Summary and Analysis of Part One, Chapters 5-8

Part One, Chapter 5


A woman, the narrator tells us, walks out of the water, and, exhausted, she rests all day and all night by a mulberry tree. The air hurts her lungs. Finally, she manages to get up and slowly walk to the yard of 124, where she sits on a tree stump. Her skin is new, like a baby's.

Coming home from the carnival, Sethe, Paul D, and Denver find the girl. On seeing her, Sethe has a powerful urge to urinate, and runs off. She does not make it to the outhouse and voids an unbelievable amount of water-as much as when she lost her water before Denver's birth.

The girl's name is Beloved, and she does not seem to have a last name. Paul D wants to ask more questions but knows that a black woman on her own must be running from something bad, so he doesn't press the issue. Beloved is feeble and asks for water, of which she drinks an incredible amount. She sleeps for four days, a possessive Denver tending to her. When she gets well enough to eat, all she asks for are sweets. She moves like an old woman, supporting herself and taking tiny steps.

Paul D is suspicious: although Beloved acts weak, he has seen her pick up the rocker with one hand. He shares these fears with Sethe, who does not believe him. When Paul D asks Denver, who was there, to confirm his story, she denies it.


Beloved is the dead baby returned, in human flesh, at the age she would have been had she lived. The text does not yet say this explicitly, but there are a number of indicators:

--her name

--her baby-like characteristics: skin, craving for sweets, and her weak command of language

--her strange first appearance as she emerges from the water, like she is coming out of the waters out the womb

--Sethe's need to lose water on seeing Beloved (as if Sethe were giving birth)

--the disappearance of Here Boy (the dog that never enters the house after having been injured by the baby ghost)

Denver seems to have some early instinctual grasp of the situation, because when Sethe asks where Here Boy has gone to, Denver answers that he has disappeared for good. Paul D is suspicious, but has no idea what has happened-he still knows nothing about the conditions of the baby's death. Sethe has no idea of Beloved's identity, but she decides to let the girl stay at 124 indefinitely.

Denver is painfully lonely, and tends to Beloved possessively-she finally has a new friend. Her refusal to confirm the truth of Paul D's story shows her need to protect Beloved at the cost of the truth, and her lie chills her relationship with Paul D considerably.

The ghost, at this point, seems benign enough, but her power is hinted at by Paul D's story. Although she is clearly frail, her ability to perform acts of strength suggests that she is far from helpless.

Part One, Chapter 6


Beloved is obsessed with Sethe, watching her every move, following her around the house. Beloved is also obsessed with hearing stories about the past. Sethe tells her stories that she seldom shares. Beloved also seems to know, before the stories are told, about events and things that she could not possibly know about.

Back at Sweet Home, Sethe got a pair of crystal earrings from Mrs. Garner, who gave them to Sethe perhaps out of guilt that Sethe clearly wanted a real wedding and wasn't going to get one. Sethe took to stealing scraps of fabric, from which she sewed an ugly and bizarre-looking dress.

Beloved also asks Sethe about her mother, and if her mother ever fixed her hair. The answer is No: most nights, Sethe's mother did not even sleep in the same cabin as Sethe. She worked from before dawn until late at night in the rice paddies, and on Sundays she slept all day. But Sethe does remember that her mother showed her a mark, like the mark cattle get from a brand. Her mother told her that if something happened to her, and Sethe couldn't tell her identity from her face, she would know by the mark. All of the other slaves with that mark were dead. Later on, Sethe's mother was hanged, but the body was so mutilated that she could not make out the mark anyway.

Retelling this story brings memories that Sethe had buried deep down: she remembers suddenly that when she was little she spoke a different language, with Nan, the one-armed slave woman who tended the children, and with her own mother. She cannot remember the language anymore, and realizes that it might have something to do with the vagueness of her memories of the world before Sweet Home. She also remembers Nan telling her that Sethe was the only baby her mother kept-her father was a black man, and Sethe inherited his name. The other babies were from when Sethe's mother was raped by white men, and she threw them all away.

Denver wonders why Beloved seems to know what questions to ask about Sethe's past.


Beloved needs Sethe with a frightening intensity. She does not see Sethe as separate from herself-like the infant in psychological/psychoanalytical theories, she has not conceived of an identity separate from her mother's. Her need to know stories of Sethe's past is more inclusive than Denver's. While Denver want to know only stories that concern herself, Beloved wants to know everything about Sethe-in part, perhaps, because for Beloved, Sethe is part of her.

Her name reflects the confusion. Sethe named Beloved after the first two words said at the funeral-Dearly Beloved-which she mistook as referring to the dead. "Dearly Beloved," however, actually refers to the people at the funeral. Sethe names Beloved after herself, revealing that she, too, is confused about where her own identity ends and her children's identity begins.

Sethe's links to her own mother are painful. Although her mother did not get to raise her, conditions led both of them to the act of infanticide. Sethe's name is a trace of heritage left to her, but although she bears her father's name she does not know the name of her own mother, and she has forgotten the language of her childhood. Nan and her mother were of the generation brought over on a slave ship, and the violence of that act has cut off Sethe's heritage, leaving her with no legacy beyond the history that begin with slavery. She forgets her language, but, like her mother, commits infanticide.

Part One, Chapter 7


Paul D grows increasingly suspicious of Beloved, probing her with questions. Beloved reacts angrily, and Denver sides with her against him. Later, Sethe and Paul D have an argument about her. Sethe insists that it's no trouble to feed her, while Paul D thinks they might find somewhere else for Beloved to live. During the argument, Sethe insists that all men want to wrong women, all men including Halle, because he took off and ran when they were supposed to escape to the North together. But Paul D reveals that he did see Halle again, and Halle had gone mad. He was sitting next to a butter churn, butter all over his face. Paul D believes that Halle was watching from the loft when schoolteacher and his nephews took Sethe's milk. Paul D wanted to say something to him, but he couldn't because he had an iron bit in his mouth at the time.

Sethe is horrified. When she hears a story, her brain immediately begins to imagine it. She cannot imagine the future, but the stories of the past are vividly imagined in her head. So she sees her husband watching, impotent, while she is abused, and then she sees him by the churn, realizing that he was putting the butter on his face because he was remembering the milk that the boys took from Sethe. She dreads hearing the rest of Paul D's story.

Paul D tells her that while he had the bit in his mouth he watched a rooster strutting around the yard and felt inferior to it. He intends to tell her more, but she stops him by rubbing his knee. Paul D thinks it is just as well-he doesn't wish to show her "the tobacco tin buried in his chest, where a red heart used to be. Its lid rusted shut." Sethe, in rubbing his knee, feels like she is kneeding dough, something she does every day, and the ritual helps her to beat back the past.


Paul D, by setting himself against Beloved, makes his position precarious. Denver and Sethe are protective about the girl, and Beloved herself (although Paul D does not know it) is dangerous.

Both in the story of Halle's madness and Paul D's wearing of the bit, we see the emasculation of black men under slavery. Halle watched, powerless, while white men took his wife's milk. Paul D, a bit in his mouth as if he were an animal, watched a rooster and felt that his own masculinity was inferior to the bird's (the rooster's name, significantly, was Mister). The image of Paul D's heart as a tin with a rusted lid is one that recurs throughout the rest of the novel. It shows his strategy of survival has been to kill feeling, to remove his human heart.

Part One, Chapter 8


Upstairs, Beloved and Denver dance. Denver asks Beloved what it is like on the other side. Beloved tells her that on the other side she is small, curled into fetal position, and it is hot with no room to move. She has come back to see Sethe's face. When Denver asks her not to tell Sethe what she is, Beloved becomes angry, warning Denver not to tell her what to do. Denver, Beloved warns her, she can do without, but she must have Sethe. She asks Denver to tell the story of how Sethe gave birth to Denver in the boat.

Amy showed Sethe where a lean-to was, and tried to tend to her wounds. It was Amy who said that the scars on Sethe's back were a chokeberry tree. Amy wondered what God could be up to. Sethe, to everyone's surprise, lived through the night. Sethe and Amy found a boat the next morning, and in that boat Amy helped Sethe to give birth to Denver. They came ashore and tended to the baby that night, dressing the infant in rags from their own bodies. The next morning, Amy asked Sethe to tell the baby about her and then set off on her own, afraid to be caught with a runaway.


Beloved's need to possess Sethe is frightening: she insists that Sethe is hers, and that she needs her. The dynamic between Denver and Beloved is unhealthy: Denver is desperate for kindness from Beloved, but Beloved is fickle and selfish, like a child, only needing Sethe. Denver often feels rejected and lonely.

The tree on Sethe's back, and Amy's questions about what it could all mean, are reflective of the need to make sense of slavery's legacy. Amy's re-imagining of the scars as a tree presents a faith in art, in imagination, in hope. The tree is often an image of protection and shelter throughout the book (Paul D's tree at Sweet Home, Denver's boxwood room, the flowering trees Paul D follows to the North in a flashback later in the novel). Amy's aid to Sethe, and the beautiful birth of Sethe's child, shows more cause for hope. When the two women came ashore and tend to the baby, they were coming to see "what, indeed, God had in mind." There is reason to be optimistic. The birth of this baby, the baby who will be named Denver, provides a powerful juxtaposition to the story of the baby ghost, and shows hope for the future.