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Describe a physical object which represents a negative or positive difference for Paul...

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tekab | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Honors

Posted August 1, 2013 at 12:05 PM via web

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Describe a physical object which represents a negative or positive difference for Paul D. in Beloved.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 1, 2013 at 7:20 AM (Answer #1)

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One object that is used to describe Paul D. as being unique and different to those around him is his heart and the metaphor that is used to describe it. At various points in the text, it is referred to as a "rusted tobacco tin," and this object is an apposite comparison for a number of reasons. Firstly it speaks of the way that Paul D. has been used and abused during his time at Sweet Home and when he worked on a chain gang. Paul D. as a result had to bury his feelings and desires in this rusted tobacco tin. Secondly, it relates to Paul D. himself, who may not appear to be anything special on the outside, but, just like the tin, contains great sensitivity and riches within. Note for example how the text picks up on this metaphor to describe Paul D.'s heart in the following passage when he sleeps with Beloved:

She moved closer with a footfall he didn't hear and he didn't hear the whisper that the flakes of rust made either as they fell away from the seams of his tobacco tin. So when the lid gave he didn't know it. What he knew was that when he reached the inside part he was saying, "Red heart. Red heart," over and over again.

What is fascinating about this rather disturbing scene is the positive impact it has on Paul D. This act of sex with Beloved actually seems to heal Paul D. in some way and enable him to recognise that it is Sethe he loves, even though he is in fact sleeping with Sethe's murdered daughter. The rusted tobacco tin therefore is an excellent object to use to describe the difference that Paul D. has compared to the rest of the characters, as it reveals both the abuse he has suffered but also the strength and purity of character that lies within that battered shell.

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