In Toni Morrison's novel Beloved, Sethe's husband Halle never came back to Baby Suggs' house after planning to run away from Sweet Home.

After Paul D arrives, he later blurts out to Sethe of what he saw of Halle, who had butter in his mouth.

"He couldn't get out the loft."

"Loft? What loft?"

"The one over your head. In the barn."

"He saw."

"He told you?"


"The day I came in here. You said they stole your milk. I never knew what it was that messed him up. That was it, I guess. All I knew was that something broke him. Not a one of them years of Saturdays, Sundays and night time extra never touched him. But whatever he saw go on in that barn that daybroke him like a twig."

"He saw?" Sethe was gripping her elbows as though to keep them from flyingaway.

"He saw. Must have."

"He saw them boys do that to me and let them keep on breathing air? He saw? He saw? He saw?"

"Hey! Hey! Listen up. 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."Sethe was pacing up and down, up and down in the lamplight."The underground agent said, By Sunday. They took my milk and he saw it and didn't come down? Sunday came and he didn't. Monday came and no Halle. I thought he was dead, that's why; then I thought they caught him,that's why. Then I thought, No, he's not dead because if he was I'd know it,and then you come here after all this time and you didn't say he was dead,because you didn't know either, so I thought, Well, he just found him another better way to live.Because if he was anywhere near here, he'd come to Baby Suggs, if not tome. But I never knew he saw."

"What does that matter now?"

"If he is alive, and saw that, he won't step foot in my door. Not Halle."

"It broke him, Sethe."

Paul D looked up at her and sighed. "You may as well know it all. Last time I saw him he was sitting by the chum. He had butter all over his face."

"You told me."

So the inference here is that seeing his wife getting raped and being helpless, Halle went mad and catatonic.

  1. But why did "They" take Sethe's milk ,and churn it into butter?

  2. Why did Halle have his wife's butter[technically speaking] all over his face?

  3. Halle does never return. Is it due to shame of watching Sethe getting raped or guilt of having her butter on his face?

  • Hi and welcome to Literature Stack Exchange. I wonder if you could transcribe the most relevant passages from the screenshots as text? Images of text are inaccessible to blind users, for example.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Nov 24, 2020 at 14:08


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