Part Three: Chapters 26-28

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Last Updated April 11, 2023.

Chapter 26 

At 124, the careless fun shared by the three women does not last for more than a month. Over time, Sethe becomes more and more obsessed with pleasing Beloved. This leads to her being repeatedly late for work until she is fired, after which she seems indifferent to putting food on the table. The duo eventually cut Denver out of their interactions, creating a self-contained cycle where Beloved is demanding, and Sethe is apologetic and obsequious.

Initially, Denver remains vigilant against her mother, fearful that she might try to kill Beloved. However, she gradually realizes that it is Beloved who is going to end up killing their mother—through starvation. In order to keep them alive, Denver ventures out into the town to look for work. She lands at Lady Jones’ house, who immediately recognizes her and invites her in. Denver reveals that Sethe is sick and that she wants work. Lady Jones indirectly explains that Denver has no actual bankable skills. However, she gives her food and tells the other townspeople of Denver’s plight. People from the community begin leaving plates and baskets of food for Denver outside 124. She enjoys brief interactions with them when she returns the plates and baskets.

After a while, Denver decides to stop relying on charity and try for a job again. She visits the Bodwins’ house but finds only Janey, who asks Denver about her situation. Denver reveals the existence of Beloved to her, and Janey quickly comes to the conclusion that she is Sethe’s daughter. Janey tells Denver that she can work as a caretaker for the Bodwins during the evenings.

The news that Sethe is being tortured by the ghost of her dead daughter spreads among the community. Some believe the story; others do not. Some people say that Sethe deserves it, but Ella argues that nobody deserves to be hounded mercilessly by the past. Thirty of the townswomen decide to save Sethe and gather outside her house. At first, they simply pray, but they eventually begin to sing.

Overhearing the singing, Sethe and Beloved step outside of the house, holding hands. In Sethe’s other hand is an ice pick, as she had been breaking a lump of ice beforehand. At that moment, Mr. Bodwin arrives in his cart to pick up Denver for her job. Seeing a white man arrive in a cart reminds Sethe of schoolteacher, and she rushes at Mr. Bodwin with an ice pick, intending to kill him.

Chapter 27

Paul D hears of Sethe’s attempt to murder Mr. Bodwin and learns that Beloved has disappeared. Ella punched Sethe in the face, saving Mr. Bodwin, who expressed no desire to press charges against the panic-stricken woman. Mr. Bodwin says that he is more confused and curious about Beloved. However, nobody had seen exactly how she disappeared.

The next morning, Paul D comes across Denver, who is continuing to work for the Bodwins. She shares that she is receiving academic training from Mrs. Bodwin. Paul D feels the urge to warn her not to trust a white school teacher but bites his tongue. He asks her about her mother. Denver replies that Sethe is still unwell, and she feels that she has lost her mother. Paul D asks Denver if she really believes that Beloved was her dead sister. Denver replies that Beloved was maybe “more.”

Paul D reminisces about the failed escapes in his life: his escape from Sweet Home, from Georgia, and from the war. He visits 124 and finds the house rendered bleak and empty by Beloved’s absence. He also finds Sethe singing to herself in a room. He interrupts her, but Sethe tells Paul D that she is tired and just wants to rest. Fearful that Sethe is trying to follow Baby Suggs, Paul D shouts at her and tells her that he is going to give her a bath. He remembers Sixo describing his lover, the Thirty-Mile Woman, as somebody who picked up the pieces of himself and put him back together. Paul D realizes that he feels the same way about Sethe.

 Sethe begins to cry that the best thing in her life and about herself has left her. Paul D holds her hand and tells her that she, not her children, is her own best thing.

Chapter 28

Beloved’s existence is assumed to be a supernatural manifestation of intense, wild, and roaming loneliness. No one wishes to tell her story or even remember her. Eventually, everyone forgets her, even the inhabitants of 124, who cannot seem to remember anything that she said now. Faintly, she seems to exist in places of love, family, and loss, before dissolving into the indifferent backdrop of nature.

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Part Two: Chapters 22-25