Chapter 1 Questions
1. The novel is dedicated to Sixty Million and more, what do you think this means?
2. The epigraph at the beginning of the novel reads:
I will call them my people,
which were not my people;
and her beloved,
which was not beloved.
- Romans 9:25
What do you think this means? How can you connect the meaning of this epigraph with the novel?
3. How did Sethe pay for her baby girl’s headstone? What does this suggest about Sethe’s character?
4. What is written on the headstone? Why?
5. What is the story behind the tree on Sethe’s back?
6. What does the tree on Sethe’s back symbolize?
7. What were the Garners like? How did they treat their slaves?
8. What is Sethe’s attitude toward the baby ghost? How is the similar or different to Denver’s attitude toward the ghost?
9. What is Denver’s attitude toward Paul D? Why?
10. Explain the significance of the name of the slave farm Sweet Home?
Chapter 4 Questions
- What do Sethe and Paul D fight about?
- Why does Paul D think loving too much is dangerous? What is his solution?
- What do the shadows holding hands symbolize as Paul D, Sethe, and Denver walk to the carnival?
- What is the mood of each of the following characters as they go to the carnival: Sethe, Paul D, and Denver?
- How does Denver’s attitude change by the end of the chapter? Why?
Chapter 5 Questions & Notes
Ms. Fischer’s Notes
- Archetypes are symbols or characters that occur throughout world literature and different cultures.
- Water is an archetype symbolizing transition, rebirth, and/or cleansing.
- Trees are a recurrent motif throughout the novel. Pay attention to the role of trees and water in this chapter.
- Physically describe the woman who calls herself Beloved. What does she look like? What is her skin like? What is she dressed like? How does she feel physically? What does her voice sound like?
- What is Sethe’s initial reaction to the appearance of this new woman? What might this symbolize?
- How does Denver respond to the appearance of this new woman? Why does she act this way?
- What does Paul D witness Beloved do that he finds incongruous to her apparent illness?
- What does Denver lie about? What is her motivation to lie?
- Explain the meaning and the significance of the final line of the chapter.
- How is the shadow imagery in the opening paragraph of chapter 6 different from the shadow imagery in chapter 4 (the carnival)? Why is this significant?
- Why didn’t Sethe wear her earrings until she arrived at 124?
- Describe Sethe’s wedding dress. Explain its significance.
- What distinguished Sethe from her siblings? Why is this significant?
- What breaks Halle’s spirit? Why does this effect him so much?
- Explain the significance of the butter Halle puts on his face.
- Explain the significance of Paul D’s encounter with the rooster Mister.
- How does the tobacco tin work on a symbolic level?
- Who does Denver think Beloved is? Why?
- How does Beloved describe the place she came from? What are the different possible places she might be describing?
- What new information do we learn about Denver’s birth?
- Why was Baby Suggs known as Baby Suggs, holy?
- What happens in the Clearing? Why is this important in the lives of the freed blacks?
- What happens to Sethe in the Clearing? Why? Who is responsible?
- Who is Beloved most jealous of? Why?
- What is Beloved’s explanation for the choking incident? What might this symbolize?
- Why does Denver go deaf? What occurs that makes her hearing return? What is the symbolic significance of her deafness?
- Why was Paul D sent to Alfred, Georgia?
- What were the conditions like in Alfred, Georgia? Be detailed and specific.
- How do the men escape?
- Who is the “she” referred to in the first sentence? Who is she moving and how?
- Explain Paul D’s “house-fits.”
- Explain what occurs to Paul D’s tobacco tin at the end of the chapter. What might this mean symbolically?
Questions to ponder as we continue to read...
- How are trees used symbolically throughout the novel?
- How does Sweet Home represent the paradoxes implicit in the practice of slavery?
- How does the institution of slavery effect motherhood?
Questions to Study for the Test on Monday, May 21
1. Explain the meaning of the reference in the epigraph, “Sixty Million and more.”
2. What have been the circumstances of Amy Denver's life?
3. In what ways does Amy help Sethe?
4. What is Denver's response to the newcomer, Beloved?
5. What types of information does Denver conceal about Beloved? What do you think may be her motive?
6. What memories does Sethe have of her mother? What does Sethe know about her father and her siblings?
7. What is Paul D.'s attitude toward the newcomer, Beloved?
8. What new facts about her husband's death does Paul D. reveal to Sethe?
9. What is significant about Paul D.'s memories of a rooster?
10. What kind of formal education does Denver receive, and how does it end?
11. What were the circumstances of Paul D.'s prison work camp?
12. How do the neighbors respond to Baby Sugg's party? What ominous presentiment does she have?
13. How had Baby Suggs received her name, and why does she keep it?
14. What account is contained in the newspaper article Stamp Paid shows Paul D.? On what grounds does Paul D. reject its authenticity?
15. Why did Howard and Buglar runaway (besides the haunting of the ghost)?
16. What is it about Sethe’s character that makes the black community turn
against her (not her actions, but her personality)?
17. Explain the idea of rememory?
18. How does Paul D escape from Alfred, Georiga?
19. What event prompts Stamp Paid to change his name?
20. When exactly in the book does Sethe realize Beloved’s true identity? Find the precise line and page number.
21. Why does Stamp Paid keep a red ribbon? What does this ribbon symbolize?
22. How does Sethe reinterpret the hand-holding shadows in chapter 19?
23. What is the premise behind the schoolteacher’s study of the slaves at Sweet Home?
24. What details from the book suggest that Beloved in really a baby that looks like an adult? Find specific quotations and details from the text.
25. Explain the role of the blackberries in the book. What do they symbolize? How do these impact the major events in the book?