Most literary pieces have different quotations expressing universal themes. These quotes are often used during the ordinary conversation and specific writings, speeches, and addresses. Quotes or quotations do not lose their universality whatever the circumstances or times may be. Toni Morrison’s Beloved has quotes which show the major themes of slavery, racial segregation, and longing of individuals for freedom. Some of the representative quotes have been analyzed below.
Quotes in Beloved
“124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom.”
This is the first line of the novel, Beloved. It is the house number of Sethe and her children. The line introduces the ghost, Beloved. As well as the spiteful area because neighbors do not like the African Americans living in a house of their own near them. It seems that this house number still harbors the bitter memories of her dead daughter and the past of her life in slavery.
“My first-born. All I can remember of her is how she loved the burned bottom of bread. Can you beat that? Eight children and that’s all I remember.”
Baby Suggs speaks these lines to make Sethe realize that she is a lucky woman to have three children alive as she lost all her eight children. She only remembers her firstborn daughter loving the burned bread. Suggs suggests Sethe that she has only memories of her eight children. She is happy with that. These lines are significant, as they show Baby Suggs’s role in making Sethe happy.
“A man ain’t nothing but a man. But a son? Well, now, that’s somebody.”
Baby Suggs, the mother-in-law of Sethe, speaks these lines. She tells her that a man not equal to a son. As she is referring to Halle, who lived with her for 20 years. She expresses that Halle is just like other men who left Seth after he married her and changed. Halle was is her last child.
“To Sethe, the future was a matter of keeping the past at bay. The ‘better life’ she believed she and Denver were living was simply not that other one.”
These lines show that Sethe can forget her brutal past because if she wants to make life better. She understands the importance of leaving the past behind. Therefore, she believes that she along with her daughter Denver are living a better life in their house, as they have the shelter of their own without a cruel master to torment them.
“Denver hated the stories her mother told that did not concern herself, which is why Amy was all she ever asked about. The rest was a gleaming, powerful world made more so by Denver’s absence from it.”
Here the third person narrator states that Denver hates her mother for narrating the stories in which she is not the character. That is why she only asks Sethe to tell Amy Denver’s story and how she saved her as a baby. Denver who remains mostly isolated loves Amy Denver and her character and eventually learns to be independent.
“Bit by bit, at 124 and in the Clearing, along with others, she had claimed herself. Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another.”
The omniscient narrator is describing the situation of Sethe when she settles down in Cincinnati at 124. It is a house in the Clearing where she has settled. It seems that she has claimed the ownership of that place after winning freedom and traveling a long way to reach there. These lines are significant, as they capture the sense of freedom in Sethe’s life.
“It made them furious. They swallowed baking soda, the morning after, to calm the stomach violence caused by the bounty, the reckless generosity on display at 124. Whispered to each other in the yards about fat rats, doom and uncalled-for pride.”
These lines show how Baby Suggs is enjoying life at 124 and loves the number of their house in Cincinnati, Ohio. They have thrown a party where more than ninety people have gathered, who feel indigestion after eating a lot. The people whispered about the things at the house in the yard when enjoying the celebration. These lines demonstrate the sense of freedom they have in their own house after being freed from slavery.
“All the time, I’m afraid the thing that happened that made it all right for my mother to kill my sister could happen again. I don’t know what it is, I don’t know who it is, but maybe there is something else terrible enough to make her do it again.”
Denver is engaged in a monologue where she states that the traumatic event of her sister, Beloved’s murder, by her mother could happen again. She thinks that her mother may do that again if something terrible happens to them. These lines are significant, as they show how they have gone through the traumatic experience and also how Denver fears of being killed by her mother.
“I see the dark face that is going to smile at me it is my dark face that is going to smile at me the iron circle is around our neck she does not have sharp earrings in her ears or a round basket she goes in the water with my face.”
These lines are Beloved’s monologue. The broken sentences and incoherent thoughts show that the reflections of her own race and that trauma of slavery are still present in her language. These are rather fragmented memories of the traumatic experience of being killed and then returning as a ghost.
“By and by all trace is gone, and what is forgotten is not only the footprints but the water too and what it is down there. The rest is weather.”
At the end of the novel, the anonymous narrator says that the traces of Beloved’s ghost are gone. There is no mention of the river or the dead Beloved. The people, in the house 124 and around it, have forgotten what has happened to her, or the inmates of this house. Just like the weather, the memories of someone’s death passes away slowly.