Quotes From 'Beloved' by Toni Morrison

Beloved - Toni Morrison
Alfred Knopf

Editor's Note: Toni Morrison passed away on August 5, 2019. We've gathered highlights from one of her most celebrated novels to help you honor her work.

Beloved is a novel by Toni Morrison, who uses flashbacks and other devices to draw us through the tragic series of events in Sethe's life. A moment of insanity shaped the rest of her existence. She and those around her would never be the same. Here are a few quotes from this dark novel, Beloved.

Notable Quotes from Toni Morrison's Beloved

  • "124 was spiteful. Full of a baby's venom."
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 1
  • "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."
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 1
  • "a pool of red and undulating light that locked him where he stood."
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 1
  • "If a Negro got legs he ought to use them. Sit down too long, somebody will figure out a way to tie them up."
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 1
  • "I got a tree on my back and a haint in my house, and nothing in between but the daughter I am holding in my arms. No more running--from nothing. I will never run from another thing on this earth. I took one journey and I paid for the ticket, but let me tell you something, Paul D Garner: it cost too much! Do you hear me? It cost too much."
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 1
  • "the house itself was pitching."
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 1
  • "A man ain't nothing but a man. But a son? Well, now, that's somebody"
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 2
  • "The picture is still there and what's more, if you go there--you who never was there--if you go there and stand in the place where it was, it will happen again; it will be there for you, waiting for you. So, Denver, you can't never go there. Never. Because even though it's all over--over and done with--it's going to always be there waiting for you."
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 3
  • "Would it be all right? Would it be all right to go ahead and feel? Go ahead and count on something?"
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 3
  • "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."
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 3
  • "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. Not being in it, she hated it and wanted Beloved to hate it too, although there was no chance of that at all."
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 6
  • "Why was there nothing it refused? No misery, no regret, no hateful picture too rotten to accept? Like a greedy child it snatched up everything. Just once, could it say, No thank you? I just ate and can't hold another bite?"
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 7
  • "I don't want to know or have to remember that. I have other things to do: worry, for example, about tomorrow, about Denver, about Beloved, about age and sickness not to speak of love. But her brain was not interested in the future. Loaded with the past and hungry for more, it left her no room to imagine, let alone plan for, the next day."
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 7
  • "Come on, you may as well just come on."
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 8
  • "Those white things have taken all I had or dreamed,' she said, 'and broke my heartstrings too. There is no bad luck in the world but whitefolks."
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 9
  • "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."
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 9
  • "She had been so close, then closer. And it was so much better than the anger that ruled when Sethe did or thought anything that excluded herself. She could bear the hours--nine or ten of them each day but one--when Sethe was gone. Bear even the nights when she was close but out of sight, behind walls and doors lying next to him. But now--even the daylight time that Beloved had counted on, disciplined herself to be content with, was being reduced, divided by Sethe's willingness to pay attention to other things. Him mostly."
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 9
  • "Making them think the next sunrise would be worth it; that another stroke of time would do it at last."
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 10
  • "Only when she was dead would they be safe. The successful ones--the ones who had been there enough years to have maimed, mutilated, maybe even buried her--kept watch over the others who were still in her cock-teasing hug, caring and looking forward, remembering and looking back."
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 10

Study Guide

Questions for Study and Discussion

  • "This is worse than when Paul D came to 124 and she cried helplessly into the stove. This is worse. Then it was for herself. Now she is crying because she has no self."
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 12
  • "She doesn't move to open the door because there is no world out there. She decides to stay in the cold house and let the dark swallow her like the minnows of light above. She won't put up with another leaving, another trick. Waking up to find one brother then another not at the bottom of the bed, his foot jabbing her spine. Sitting at the table eating turnips and saving the liquor for her grandmother to drink; her mother's hand on the keeping-room door and her voice saying, 'Baby Suggs is gone, Denver.' And when she got around to worrying about what would be the case if Sethe died or Paul D took her away, a dream-come-true comes true just to leave her on a pile of newspaper in the dark."
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 12
  • "If her boys came back one day, and Denver and Beloved stayed on--well, it would be the way it was supposed to be, no? Right after she saw the shadows holding hands at the side of the road hadn't the picture altered? And the minute she saw the dress and shoes sitting in the front yard, she broke water. Didn't even have to see the face burning in the sunlight. She had been dreaming it for years."
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 13
  • "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."
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 15
  • "I would have known right away who you was when the sun blotted out your face the way it did when I took you to the grape arbor. I would have known at once when my water broke. And when I did see your face it had more than a hint of what you would look like after all these years. I would have known who you were right away because the cup after cup of water you drank proved and connected to the fact that you dribbled clear spit on my face the day I got to 124. I would have known right off, but Paul D distracted me. Otherwise I would have seen my fingernail prints right there on your forehead for all the world to see. From when I held your head up, out in the shed. And later on, when you asked me about the earrings I used to dangle for you to play with, I would have recognized you right off, except for Paul D."
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 20
  • "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. I need to know what that thing might be, but I don't want to. Whatever it is, it comes from outside this house, outside the yard, and it can come right on in the yard if it wants to. So I never leave this house and I watch over the yard, so it can't happen again and my mother won't have to kill me too."
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 21
  • "I am Beloved and she is mine. I see her take flowers away from leaves she puts them in a round basket the leaves are not for her she fills the basket she opens the grass I would help her but the clouds are in the way how can I say things that are pictures I am not separate from her there is no place where I stop her face is my own and I want to be there in the place where her face is and to be looking at it too a hot thing."
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 22
  • "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."
    Toni MorrisonBeloved, Ch. 22
  • "I am not dead I sit the sun closes my eyes when I open them I see the face I lost Sethe's is the face that left me Sethe sees me see her and I see the smile her smiling face is the place for me it is the face I lost she is my face smiling at me doing it at last a hot thing now we can join."
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 22
  • Quote 27: "'Seven-O! Seven-O!'"
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 24
  • "Dirty you so bad you couldn't like yourself anymore. And though she and others lived through and got over it, she could never let it happen to her own. The best things she was, was her children. Whites might dirty her all right, but not her best thing, her beautiful, magical best thing -- the part of her that was clean."
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 26
  • "You your best thing, Sethe. You are."
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 27
  • "Everybody knew what she was called, but nobody anywhere knew her name. Disremembered and unaccounted for, she cannot be lost because no one is looking for her, and even if they were, how can they call her if they don't know her name? Although she has claim, she is not claimed."
    - Toni Morrison, Beloved, Ch. 28