Humanity uses numbers as a way to communicate beyond words, evoking ideas more readily than words alone are able to. All religions and cultures have significant numbers that communicate an essence or idea more quickly and completely than words can. It is in this manner that Toni Morrison uses numbers in Beloved. Significant numbers occur starting with the first symbols of the text and the words on the pages before the body of the text starts. .
124. The first thing to appear, and we already have a significant number. Sethe has four children. The third one is dead. Numbers 1, 2, and 4 remain. Another number that stands alone in its significance is twenty-eight. Twenty-eight is the length of the menstrual cycle, the lunar month, and the duration of Sethe's happiness: "Sethe had had twenty-eight days - the travel of one whole moon - of unslaved life. From the pure clear stream of spit that the little girl dribbled into her face to her oily blood was twenty-eight days" (95). Sethe has lived twenty years of sorrow, for twenty-eight days of pleasure, and spends another eighteen suffering before Paul D and Beloved brighten her life again. "Those twenty-eight happy days were followed by eighteen years of disapproval and a solitary life.Was that the pattern? she wondered. Every eighteen or twenty years her unbelievable life would be interrupted by a short-lived glory?" (173). This symbol is significant, and twenty-eight ap!.
pears only within this context. .
Many numbers occur that are significant even though they are not recurring themes throughout the book. Howard and Buglar "[ran] away by the time they were thirteen years old" (3), the traditional age of manhood in many cultures, the age at which a Jewish boy becomes a Bar Mitzvah and a medieval boy would leave home for an apprenticeship. Rather than tell Sethe with words that trying to kill her children was inhuman, Paul D uses numbers: "You got two feet, Sethe, not four" (165).