Why does Sethe attack Mr. Bodwin and let Beloved disappear again?

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erin-milburn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To Sethe, who at this point in the novel, is close to being consumed by the physical manifestation of her guilt and sorrow, the arrival of Mr. Bodwin triggers the pivotal memory of the arrival of Schoolteacher and his boys all those years before that led to the tragedy of her life. In her confusion, Sethe projects Schoolteacher's intentions upon poor innocent Mr. Bodwin and tries to kill him. The focus of her rage and violence on the perceived perpetrator this time, instead of on her innocent children like before, serves to absolve Sethe of her guilt and release her from the haunting of her dead child.

julikiyomi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As Mr. Bodwin arrives to take Denver to work, Sethe sees him and experiences a confused flashback.  Thinking he is Schoolteacher who has returned to take her children back to slavery, she rushes to attack him with an ice pick in her hand.  Fortunately, Denver and others manage to stop Sethe from reaching Mr. Bodwin, but Beloved disappears after this incident.