Part One: Chapters 9-11

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Last Updated April 11, 2023.

Chapter 9

Sethe tells Denver and Beloved to accompany her to the Clearing in the woods near 124, where Baby Suggs used to hold community gatherings and informal sermons. She reminisces on her arrival to 124 with a newborn Denver strapped to her chest. Nine years from that day, with the residents of 124 now ostracized by the community, Baby Suggs had declared that all the bad luck in the world came from white folks.

Before Sethe had arrived at 124, she had met Stamp Paid, a black man who ferried fugitive slaves across the Ohio River. Ella, another black woman from the Ohio community, had also fed and clothed Sethe. She also informed her that Sethe’s other three children had already arrived safely at 124. With Sethe and Baby Suggs finally united, the latter nursed Sethe back to health and poked holes in her ears for the crystal earrings. The two then waited for Halle, who never came.

At the Clearing, Sethe thinks of Baby Suggs wistfully and imagines the feeling of the old woman’s gentle hands massaging her neck. However, the massage soon turns forceful and Sethe ends up with bruises. Beloved massages Sethe’s neck instead, then kisses her under the chin. As the three women make their way back to 124, Sethe makes up her mind that she wants Paul D in her life. Upon their return, the affectionate display between Sethe and Paul D made Beloved jealous.

Meanwhile, Denver accuses Beloved of choking Sethe earlier. She thinks back to the time when a boy named Nelson Lord had asked her about Sethe’s incarceration. It happened during informal reading classes with Lady Jones, preventing Denver from ever attending again. Later, Denver finds Beloved by the stream and apologizes for the accusation.

Chapter 10

When Paul D tried to kill Brandywine—the man Schoolteacher had sold him to—he was led to a labor camp in Alfred, Georgia, to be part of a chain gang, along with forty-five other Black men. There, he developed a chronic trembling in his body. The prisoners were all chained together by the legs, made to sleep in wooden boxes, and woken up by a rifle shot every morning for a long day of strenuous labor in the fields. Sometimes, the guards would beat the prisoners and force them to perform oral sex. With their humanity stolen from them, the men would express their frustrations with life through song.

After eighty-six days, a ferocious storm flooded their quarters and turned the ground into mud, allowing the prisoners to work together and escape. They ended up at a camp of Cherokee Indians, who helped them destroy their chains. Paul D, in his aimlessness, turned out to be the last of the prisoners to remain at the camp. Finally, he asked for directions northward and the Cherokee told him to follow the tree flowers. He then ended up in Delaware, where a woman took him in for eighteen months.

Chapter 11

To dull his growing attraction to Beloved, Paul D has sex with Sethe every day. Strangely, he also finds himself unable to sleep in Sethe’s bed anymore. As if compelled by an unknown force, he starts off sleeping in the rocker, then Baby Suggs’ bed, then the storeroom. Finally, Paul D settles down in the shed outside of 124, using sacks and newspapers for comfort.

One night, Beloved goes to Paul D in his sleep and asks him to “touch [her] on the inside part” and call out her name. Paul D chastises Beloved and tells her to treat Sethe better, but Beloved claims that she loves Sethe as no one else does. Finally, Beloved convinces Paul D to have sex with her. Afterward, Paul D calls out “red heart” over and over, recalling the tin tobacco box that he feels has replaced his heart.

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Part One: Chapters 5-8

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Part One: Chapters 12-14