Get the most important quotes from Beloved by Toni Morrison in this post. They are bound to make you think and analyze the most memorable words written in the book by this Nobel Prize winner.

Beloved by Toni Morrison in front of a bookshelf.

First, I share a quick summary of Beloved, then I share all the most important quotes from Beloved by Toni Morrison. They form the basis of any literary analysis of the novel, by which you can ponder the literary devices Morrison uses on each page to convey the story of Beloved.

Quick Summary of Beloved by Toni Morrison

(326 pages; 3 chapters — Part One, Part Two, Part Three)

Set after the American Civil War, Beloved is about former slaves living in Ohio in a haunted house at 124 Bluestone Road. Sethe lives there with her eighteen-year-old daughter, Denver. Her two sons had run away from the house because of the ghost. Baby Suggs, the mother of her husband, Halle, also died eight years earlier, right after Sethe’s sons ran away.

Paul D, a fellow former slave with Sethe at Sweet Home arrives, and shortly thereafter, they find a young woman named Beloved in front of a tree. Sethe comes to believe Beloved is her dead daughter coming back after her traumatic death.

Hoping this is a sign her family will soon be reunited, Sethe focuses all her energy on Beloved, which brings lasting consequences to the entire family.

It’s an extremely difficult read with triggering content, and it’s also not always “literal” in meaning. For this reason, I personally conducted research on the book while reading it in order to understand it better, and I recommend you do the same (or watch the movie).

What is the message of Beloved?

At its core, Beloved is about the brutal realities of slavery and how it continues to enslave thoughts, emotions, and even actions even after one is freed. These freed slaves are still left with lasting consequences despite their freedom, as they yearn for love, family, home, and a freed identity, while continually being drawn back into their harrowing pasts.

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Important Quotes from Beloved by Toni Morrison

Below are the most important quotes from Beloved by Toni Morrison — first, generally, and then grouped by the prevailing themes of slavery, the past, and love.

“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.”

“124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom. The women in the house knew it and so did the children. For years each put up with the spite in his own way, but by 1873 Sethe and her daughters Denver were its only victims.”

Read More: Memorable Book Openings

“She had not thought to ask him and it bothered her still that it might have been possible—that for twenty minutes, heard the preacher say at the funeral (and all there was to say, surely) engraved on her baby’s headstone: Dearly Beloved. But what she got, settled for, was the one word that mattered.”

“There is a loneliness that can be rocked. It’s an inside kind—wrapped tight like skin. Then there is the loneliness that roams. No rocking can hold it down. It is alive. On its own.”

“All the parts of her that were precious and fine and beautiful, and carried, pushed, dragged them through the veil, out, away, over there where no one could hurt them. Over there. Outside this place, where they would be safe.”

“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.”

“Listening to the doves in Alfred, Georgia, and having neither the right nor the permission to enjoy it because in that place mist, doves, sunlight, copper dirt, moon—everything belonged to the men who had the guns.”

“‘A man ain’t nothing but a man,’ said Baby Suggs. ‘But a son? Well now, that’s somebody.'”

“I don’t care what she is. Grown don’t mean nothing to a mother. A child is a child. They get bigger, older, but grown? What’s that supposed to mean? In my heart it don’t mean a thing.”

“Nothing ever dies.”

“Sweet, crazy conversations full of half sentences, daydreams and misunderstandings more thrilling than understanding could ever be.”

“Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined.”

“Let me tell you something. A man ain’t a goddamn ax. Chopping, hacking, busting every goddamn minute of the day. Things get to him. Things he can’t chop down because they’re inside.”

“The best thing she was, was her children.”

“He wants to put his story next to hers.” 

“People who die bad don’t stay in the ground.”

“What’s fair ain’t necessarily right.”

“‘Today is always here,’ said Sethe. ‘Tomorrow, never.'”

“Nothing could be counted on in a world where even when you were a solution you were a problem.”

“More it hurt more better it is. Can’t nothing heal without pain, you know.”

“You just can’t mishandle creatures and expect success.”

“Devil’s confusion. He lets me look good long as I feel bad.”

“She told them that the only grace they could have was the grace they could imagine. That if they could not see it, they would not have it.”

“It’s so hard for me to believe in [time]. Some things go. Pass on. Some things just stay. I used to think it was my rememory. . . . But it’s not. Places, places are still there. If a house burns down, it’s gone, but the place-the picture of it-stays, and not just in my rememory, but out there, in the world.”

“Everything depends on knowing how much,” she said, and “Good is knowing when to stop.”

“Making them think the next sunrise would be worth it; that another stroke of time would do it at last.”

“You are my Beloved. You are mine. You are mine You are mine.”

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Beloved Quotes About Slavery

“Bit by bit, at 124 and in the Clearing, along with the others, she had claimed herself. Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.”

“If they put an iron circle around your neck I will bite it away.”

“In trying to make the slave experience intimate, I hoped the sense of things being both under control and out of control would be persuasive throughout; that the order and quietude of every day life would be violently disrupted by the chaos of the needy dead; that the herculean effort to forget would be threatened by memory desperate to stay alive. To render enslavement as a personal experience, language must first get out of the way.”

“Because slave life had ‘busted her legs, back, head, eyes, hands, kidneys, womb and tongue,’ she had nothing left to make a living with but her heart-which she put to work at once.”

“What for? What does a sixty-odd-year-old slavewoman who walks like a three-legged dog need freedom for? And when she stepped foot on free ground she could not believe that Halle knew what she didn’t; that Halle, who had never drawn one free breath, knew that there was nothing like it in this world.”

“Mister was allowed to be and stay what he was. But I wasn’t allowed to be and stay what I was. Even if you cooked him you’d be cooking a rooster named Mister. But wasn’t no way I’d ever be Paul D again, living or dead. Schoolteacher changed me. I was something else and that something was less than a chicken sitting in the sun on a tub.”

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Quotes from Beloved About the Past

“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.”

“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.”

“Yet the morning she woke up next to Paul D, the word her daughter had used a few years ago did cross her mind and she thought… Would it be all right to go ahead and feel? Go ahead and count on something?”

“Working dough. Working, working dough. Nothing better than that to start that day’s serious work of beating back the past.”

“I don’t have to remember nothing. I don’t even have to explain. She understands it all…”

“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.”

“The future was sunset; the past was something to leave behind. And if it didn’t stay behind, well, you might have to stomp it out.”

“Me and you, we got more yesterday than anybody. We need some kind of tomorrow.”

“Sifting daylight dissolves the memory, turns it into dust motes floating in light.”

“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!”

“But [Sethe’s] 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.”

“‘Sethe,’ he says, ‘me and you, we got more yesterday than anybody. We need some kind of tomorrow.'”

“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. Not the breath of the disremembered and unaccounted for, but wind in the eaves, or spring ice thawing too quickly. Just weather. Certainly no clamor for a kiss.”

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Beloved Quotes About Love

“‘Here,’ she said, ‘in this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard.'”

“She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.”

“A woman, a child, a brother – a big love like that would split you wide open in Alfred, Georgia. He knew exactly what she meant: to get to a place where you could love anything you chose – not to need permission for desire – well now, that was freedom.”

“He leans over and takes her hand. With the other he touches her face. ‘You your best thing, Sethe. You are.’ His holding fingers are holding hers.”

“This and much more Denver heard her say from her corner chair, trying to persuade Beloved, the one and only person she felt she had to convince, that what she had done was right because it came from true love.”

“Something that is loved is never lost.”

“Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all.”

“Unless carefree, mother love was a killer.”

“For a used-to-be-slave woman to love anything that much was dangerous, especially if it was her children she had settled on to love. The best thing, he knew, was to love just a little bit; everything, just a little bit, so when they broke its back, or shoved it in a croaker sack, well, maybe you’d have a little love left over for the next one.”

“I was big, Paul D, and deep and wide and when I stretched out my arms all my children could get in between. I was that wide. Look like I loved em more after I got here. Or maybe I couldn’t love em proper in Kentucky because they wasn’t mine to love. But when I got here, when I jumped down off that wagon-there wasn’t nobody in the world I couldn’t love if I wanted to. You know what I mean?”

“It was lovely. Not to be stared at, not seen, but being pulled into view by the interested, uncritical eyes of the other […] Denver’s skin dissolved under that gaze and became soft and bright like the lisle dress that had its arm around her mother’s waist. She floated near but outside her own body, feeling vague and intense at the same time. Needing nothing. Being what there was.”

“The best thing, he knew, was to love just a little bit; everything, just a little bit, so when they broke its back, or shoved it in a croaker sack, well, maybe you’d have a little love left over for the next one.”

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Those are all the most important quotes from Beloved by Toni Morrison.

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