Pages 239–262: Summary and Analysis
Denver is excluded from Sethe and Beloved’s games after a winter of the three of them playing together. Sethe has been fired for going in to work later and later and, finally, not at all. Denver no longer feels she has to protect Beloved from Sethe, but rather vice-versa. She realizes that if anyone is to provide food for them, since they are becoming lethargic from starvation, it must be she. She forces herself to go out of the yard to Lady Jones who is unable to provide a job, but who—despite Denver’s refusal of charity—makes certain her church members share their food with Sethe, Beloved, and Denver.
Since this still does not provide enough food, Denver decides to hire herself out and goes to Cincinnati seeking the Bodwins. Janey Wagon greets her there and arranges a job for her at the Bodwins, sleeping overnight and being available should she be needed. Janey spreads the news of “the sick cousin” visiting the now insane Sethe. Ella soon reasons that this person must be the embodied spirit of Beloved, returned to seek revenge, and organizes the women of the community in a prayer vigil.
During the vigil, the very pregnant Beloved and Sethe come to the door to see who is singing as Denver awaits Mr. Bodwin’s arrival on the porch. Sethe, confused, thinks Mr. Bodwin is schoolteacher come to take Beloved again and attacks him with the ice pick she had in her hand.
While Sethe spends almost all her time trying to convince Beloved that what she had done was right, Beloved spends her time seeking revenge on Sethe for her murder. Beloved demands and is given; she grows big-bellied with her pregnancy (unseen by Sethe), is given the choicest (and sometimes only) food, and seeks more. She is now the more powerful and lords it over Sethe, whereas before, it was she who hoped for a scrap of Sethe’s attention. Denver is no longer useful to her since Beloved now has the power over Sethe she desires, and so is cast aside. Sethe also ignores Denver, having attention and life for no one but Beloved.
As for Denver, she proves herself to be more her father’s daughter than her mother’s, in that she rises to the occasion when it is needed: to provide the food the women need to keep alive and to prevent her mother from killing Mr. Bodwin. However, she is confused now—is she to keep protecting Beloved from Sethe murdering her again, or is it time to realize that Sethe is pathetic in her insanity and needs to be protected from Beloved?