Monday, March 1, 2010

Beloved – by the Numbers

I will be putting this link at the top of each of my blog posts for Beloved - as I read this book, I could not get this song out of my head: Sinnerman - Nina Simone

So, one thing that I noticed as I read through Beloved was the repeated series of numbers “124.” The first direction that I took this was to 3, as 3 can be found in both 2+1 and 4-1, or 4/2+1, or 12/4. At any rate, the number three is featured heavily throughout this story: the three characters through whom the story is told (Sethe, Denver, & Paul D) are also the three members of a family, but there is also the three generations of characters, the three Pauls, the three stages in the lives of Paul and Sethe (slavery, imprisonment, & freedom), Sethe’s three surviving children (Howard, Buglar, and Denver), even the book is broken into three sections. There is also perhaps a holy trinity in here as well, but rather than the father, son, and holy ghost, we have Sethe, Denver, and Beloved.
The trinities created between the characters and representing their unbreakable bonds, however, are ultimately challenged by the presence of Beloved, who acts to erode those bonds between other characters and take over the relationship herself. For example, Beloved attacks the familial relationship (though strained already) among Sethe, Paul D, and Denver. Early on, Beloved rejects Denver, telling her that she needs a mother rather than a sister. Later, Beloved seduces Paul, straining the relationship between him and Sethe. Beloved attempts to destroy the power of the three by overtaking it with the direct and exclusive relationship between only two that she tries to establish with these characters.
Anyway, this was something I found interesting as I read the book.


  1. I had noticed this as well, although not all the equations that you came up with. To me, I saw the "3" was simply the missing number. 1, 2, __, 4.
    Numerology is such an occultish pseudo-science that it's sometimes hard for me to take seriously, but I'd bet a lot of money it's intentional here by Morrison.

  2. Interestingly enough, the number 23 puzzle is usually attributed to William S Burroughs. More proof that everything this semester can be tied to either the Beat Poets or the name of one's horse.