In Beloved, who is Stamp Paid? What is the central conflict that arises for him? How is it resolved? How does Stamp Paid use speculative elements to explore notions of race, gender, class, or...

In Beloved, who is Stamp Paid? What is the central conflict that arises for him? How is it resolved? How does Stamp Paid use speculative elements to explore notions of race, gender, class, or sexuality? What are some open-ended questions about Stamp Paid?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Stamp Paid is a complex character. He is a giving and altruistic character who helps ferry escaped slaves across the Ohio River to freedom as part of the Underground Railroad. He helps Sethe across the river to freedom and tells his nephew to give his coat to Denver, the newborn baby. He is a Moses-like character in this regard. The conflict surrounding his character emerges in the following paragraph from Chapter 15:

"It was Stamp Paid who started it. Twenty days after Sethe got to 124 he came by and looked at the baby he had tied up in his nephew's jacket, looked at the mother he had handed a piece of fried eel to and, for some private reason of his own, went off with two buckets to a place near the river's edge that only he knew about where blackberries grew, tasting so good and happy that to eat them was like being in church. Just one of the berries and you felt anointed."

Baby Suggs winds up making a feast out of the berries that Stamp Paid gives her, and the feast winds up offending the people in the town. Morrison writes about the feast in Chapter 15:

"It made them furious. They swallowed baking soda, the morning after, to calm the stomach violence caused by the bounty, the reckless generosity on display at 124. Whispered to each other in the yards about fat rats, doom and uncalled-for pride."

The community becomes offended by Baby Suggs's pride, and, as a result, they begin to shun her and don't warn Baby Suggs and Sethe about the white people coming to take Sethe and her children back to Sweet Home, their former plantation. As a result, Stamp Paid's act leads to horrific consequences, as Sethe winds up killing her baby to prevent any of her children from being enslaved. 

Stamp Paid resolves this problem when, after showing Paul D the clipping of the account of Sethe's murder of her child, Stamp Paid worries that he has alienated the community from Sethe and from the rest of the members of 124. Morrison writes in Chapter 19:

"Having wrestled with the question of whether or not to tell a man about his woman, and having convinced himself that he should, he then began to worry about Sethe. Had he stopped the one shot she had of the happiness a good man could bring her?"

Stamp Paid resolves the crisis brought about by his actions by convincing the community to again become involved with Sethe and with what is going on in 124.

Stamp Paid uses speculative elements, or elements of science fiction, when he visits 124 at the end of Chapter 19. Morrison writes, "Mixed in with the voices surrounding the house, recognizable but undecipherable to Stamp Paid, were the thoughts of the women of 124, unspeakable thoughts, unspoken." In other words, the very thoughts of the women inside seem like noises that Stamp Paid can hear but doesn't understand. This experience might express the way in which Stamp Paid doesn't really understand the women of 124 and the way in which the women's nightmares and memories still haunt them in a way he, as a man, can't understand. 

The open-ended questions you come up with are up to you. You might ask the class why Stamp Paid has chosen his name. What does it mean, and what it is in reference to? Also, you might ask whether Stamp Paid is beneficial or not to Sethe.