Feminists have discussed the concept of the home as the earliest school of social justice, a place where people foment their egalitarian values. Communitarians, on the other hand, have envisaged the home as the realm of personal solace where people equip themselves with the skills to belong as prosperous members of a society. Both understandings emphasize the role of the home as a repository for the hopes and dreams and fears of its inhabitants. Thehome is less a physical edifice than it is a spiritual one. It is constructed not with wood and tools and concrete, but with the sum of the emotional strength of its indwellers; it is not a geographical location, but a "space" for the mind and body to gather strength, rest and formulate strategy. In this way, "home" is not a utopian or dystopian "destination," but a very literal extension of the self – a personal history that catalogues the triumphs and follies and hate and love of the past. Without a home, one is stranded without a past, and – with no history – without an identity.
Unlike the thousands of immigrants who have traveled toAmerica to forge for themselves a new home, imported Africans were forced into America as property. They were stripped from a livable past and shackled into a foreign, unlivable future. The story of the American slave is thus the story of the African's search for a home in a hateful land. In Toni Morrison's Beloved, each generation hopes to find a better home despite a malignant world: Sethe's mother traveled from the slave ship to the plantation, Sethe from the plantation to Cincinnati, Beloved from Cincinnati to death, and Denver from a strange, haunted land of ghosts and despair to her community at large. To Morrison, the various "spaces" of the Sethe's life constitute a broader understanding of her "self." Each of the three understandings of what a home might be, as developed in Beloved – the Sweet Home plantation, the Clearing and 124 Bluestone Cincinnati – fails because it prevents the dynamic interaction of all the elements of life: one's spaces of interaction, one's past, present and hopeful future.