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Beloved continues to live with Sethe, Denver, and Paul D at 124. She becomes devoted to Sethe, she waits for her in the kitchen every morning and then goes out to meet Sethe as she is returning from work every evening. One day, Beloved asks Sethe about her diamonds, and Sethe takes a little time to remember the pair of earrings that Mrs. Garner had given her when she had chosen Halle. Sethe had wanted her marriage to Halle to be marked with a feast or a ceremony but Mrs. Garner had found the notion to be comical. Sethe had decided that she would at least have a dress, and so she began to steal bits of cloth for herself. Mrs. Garner discovered what Sethe was doing, and gave her a pair of earrings for her marriage with the hope that she finds happiness in her union with Halle. Denver wants to know where the diamonds were now, but Sethe had lost them. The story seems to give Beloved a lot of joy.
Beloved asks Sethe about her mother when she sees her braiding Denver’s hair. Sethe doesn’t remember her mother too well, as her mother had spent very little time with her. She would already be working when Sethe woke up and would sleep in another hut, one that was closer to the fields where she worked. However, Sethe’s mother had taken her aside once and shown Sethe a birthmark on her ribs as a means to identify her. It hadn’t helped when Sethe’s mother had been hanged with the other slaves, and though Sethe had looked for her mother among the several bodies of hanged slaves, she hadn’t been able to find her. Denver asks Sethe why her mother had been killed, but she had never learned the reason for her mother’s hanging or the reasons for the hanging of the other slaves. A woman named Nan had taken Sethe away from the dead bodies and told Sethe how she had been carried in the same slave ship as Sethe’s mother. Nan said that Sethe’s mother had been raped several times by white men, but she had always killed the infants from such pregnancies. She had only kept Sethe because she had been the first child she had from a black man and then given Sethe her father’s name. Denver realizes that she hates stories that have nothing to do with her birth, but she notes the hunger that Beloved has for all stories, and she begins to wonder how the woman had come to know about Sethe's diamonds.
Paul D continues to feel suspicious of Beloved, and he begins to interrogate her about her past. She isn’t capable of offering him any comprehensible answers, as she tells him that she had walked to 124 from a far away bridge and that she had been searching for a place where she could be. Paul D grills her over the state of her shoes, and dress, which hadn’t implied hard labor. He finds himself unable to believe her account, although he understands that slavery has left several people broken and past sanity. He is frustrated with her presence because she had appeared just when things between him and Sethe had begun to feel good.
Beloved chokes on a raisin, and Denver gladly takes her away to her room, while Paul D turns his questions to Sethe. He attempts to learn why Sethe continues to house and feed the strange woman. Sethe is reluctant to hear anything negative about Beloved, and the conversation turns towards Halle. Paul D reveals that Halle had seen the white boys take her breastmilk, and the incident had driven him insane. Paul D had seen Halle sitting next to a churn with butter smeared on his face. He had been unable to comfort him because he had been tied up with a bit in his mouth.
Sethe is overcome with sadness at learning about Halle and Paul D’s condition during her painful ordeal. She struggles to look forward into the future as her past keeps compelling her to look back. She offers to hear Paul D talk about his ordeal, and he tells her about how demeaning the experience had been. Paul D had been forced to wear a bit in his mouth, while the roosters in the yard were allowed to roam freely. He recalls a particular rooster called Mister, who had strutted around him, and Paul D had felt less than the animal. He doesn’t tell her anymore and suppresses the emotions back into the ‘tobacco tin’ that had come to replace his heart, a fact he hopes to keep from Sethe.
Beloved and Denver dance together in the upper rooms of 124, and Denver asks Beloved to describe where she came from. Beloved tells her that it had been dark, hot, and filled with heaps of people, some of them dead. She had then crossed a bridge and she had only thought about seeing Sethe. Denver asks her if she had met Baby Suggs there, but Beloved tells her that the people there hadn’t had names. Denver angers Beloved when she tells her never to tell Sethe who she was. Beloved doesn’t like being told what to do, and she instead asks Denver to tell the story of her birth. Denver adopts her mother’s viewpoint and recalls how she had been found by a white servant called Amy. Sethe had introduced herself as Lu and had learned that Amy was on her way to Boston in search of some carmine red velvet. Amy had cared for the heavily pregnant Sethe and dressed the injuries on her back. She had said that the scars looked like a chokeberry tree with blossoms.
Sethe feared that her baby had died inside her during her escape, but she goes into labor later that night. Amy helps her deliver the baby in a canoe next to the river and leaves the following morning. She tells Sethe to tell her child that Sethe had been aided by Amy Denver from Boston. Sethe goes to sleep thinking about how she likes the name Denver.
Sethe is deeply hurt after learning that Halle had been driven insane after what had happened to her. She misses Baby Suggs and decides to visit the Clearing with Denver and Beloved. The Clearing was the place where Baby Suggs had gathered members of the community and conducted a church-like service. She had called men and children forward to make them laugh, and asked women to cry as she called them before everyone. She hadn’t delivered any sermons but she just told the community members to love themselves as the white man had never let them believe they were worth loving. Baby Suggs had lost her faith when things had gone bad at 124, and she had stopped hosting the service then.
They reach the clearing, and Sethe is taken back to her memory of the day after Denver’s delivery. She had been exhausted but had found passage on a river vessel operated by a man called Stamp Paid. She had then been led to Baby Suggs by a woman called Ella. Baby Suggs had cleaned her up and bandaged her. Sethe kneels on the rock in the clearing that Baby Suggs had used and misses Baby Suggs massaging her neck. Suddenly she feels fingers around her throat, though they are gentle at first, the fingers soon begin to choke Sethe. Denver rushes over, and the fingers disappear. Sethe thinks the choking hand had belonged to her dead baby but Denver disagrees. Beloved comes over to caress Sethe’s neck and kiss it, but it strangely reminds her of the hands that had tried to strangle her.
All of them return home, and Sethe finds Paul D bathing himself. She is suddenly overcome by her desire to have him in her life and she goes to hug him. Beloved grows jealous and storms out of the house to where Denver is standing next to the river. Denver immediately accuses Beloved of trying to choke Sethe, but she denies it and runs off a little. Denver recalls a time in her childhood when she had been asked by a boy whether her mother had been sent to prison. The boy had angered her quite a bit, and she had never gone to school after that. Denver goes to where Beloved is standing by herself.
Paul D recalls the time he had spent chained with forty other slaves in a chain gang. They had been worked to exhaustion and caused to sleep in small wooden enclosures like animals. The chain gang slaves rarely spoke to one another, but they were so well connected that they could understand each other through a look of the eye. They would get through their labor by singing songs that their master couldn’t understand. He remembers a day when there had been a huge rainstorm, and someone had yanked Paul D into the mud. They had all realized without speaking that the mud was the means of their escape. All of the chain gang slaves had fought through the thick mud, escaped from under the fence of their enclosure and found refuge nearby in a forest with a group of Cherokees. The native Americans had freed them from the bondage of their chain and helped them recover. Slowly, all the members of the chain gang moved on until Paul D was the only one remaining. He had resolved to travel north, and there he met a weaver woman in Delaware. He understands that it had taken him a while to put away all of that hurt into the Tobacco Tin well enough for it to remain buried.
Storytelling and Memory is an important theme of the novel, and it occupies a unique position in the lives of characters that have suffered the cruelties of slavery. Sethe is repeatedly transported to the memories of her escape, and her time as a slave, without deliberate effort. In this section of the novel, Sethe tries to focus on the future, but she feels a strange pull from the past and is unable to resist it. She wants to focus on creating a life with Paul D, but she finds that learning about Halle’s insanity and Paul D’s cruel treatment, compel her to reconsider the past. Beloved is another force of memory in the novel, as she forces the members of 124 to remember their pasts, which is something she achieves both by accident and deliberately. Beloved seems to feed on the memories of the past, as she asks Sethe and Denver to tell her stories about their past.
It is also interesting to note Denver’s powerful connection with the story of her birth. She tells Beloved the story of her birth as if she had been Sethe, which communicates how truly significant the memory is to her. Like Sethe, Paul D is also fixated on the idea of suppressing the past and focusing on the future. Although his method of ignoring the past seems to affect his humanity itself. He stops believing that he has a heart anymore and instead believes that he has a tobacco tin, into which he puts all the horrible memories of being a slave.
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