Part One: Chapters 12-14
Last Updated on April 11, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 711
Denver likens Beloved to food that satiates her impossible hunger for companionship, feeling as if looking and being looked at are nourishment enough; as time goes on, she grows increasingly reliant on Beloved. Meanwhile, Sethe probes Beloved further, asking her questions about her life before 124. Because Beloved gives only vague answers, Sethe assumes that she is traumatized from being raped by white men—which would explain Beloved’s hostility towards Paul D. Denver, for her part, knows of Beloved’s and Paul D’s nightly couplings and chooses not to tell her mother.
Convinced that Beloved is the reincarnation of her dead sister’s ghost, Denver grows more and more reliant upon her. However, she finds herself let down by Beloved’s obsession with Sethe and seeming indifference to her, wishing that Beloved loved her with the intensity that she feels for her. One afternoon, the two go into the shed for a jug of cider. The heavy door shuts behind them, and Beloved disappears into the darkness, leaving Denver alone and spiraling into a panic, feeling abandoned and desperately depressed.
Believing her sister is gone forever, Denver weeps. When Beloved playfully reappears beside her, Denver clutches her sister’s skirt. Smiling, Beloved compares herself to the sunlit cracks in the ceiling and the darkness below them, then directs Denver’s gaze to the darkness, claiming that Denver can always find her there. Staring into the inky blackness, Denver imagines that she sees Beloved’s face and feels reassured.
While trying to determine how to move forward with Sethe, Paul D thinks of the days at Sweet Home after Mr. Garner, who allowed the enslaved men a certain amount of freedom, was replaced by his brother-in-law. Schoolteacher, his replacement, was a tyrant and instilled in the men that they were animals rather than men. This dehumanizing and emasculating treatment reminds Paul D of his relationship with Beloved, which makes him feel equally emasculated and out of control. He feels like little more than a toy that she uses and plays with as she pleases. Filled with humiliation and shame, Paul D resolves to pick up Sethe after work and confess everything.
Sethe is pleasantly surprised to see Paul D at her place of work. Instead of confessing, however, Paul D tells Sethe he wants to have a child with her. While Sethe laughs at his suggestion, the idea of it renders them both giddy. In his mind, Paul D sees the pregnancy as a way to fend off Beloved—a demonstration of his resolve and commitment towards Sethe. While the two head home, Paul suddenly suggests they run in the snow and, when Sethe protests, he carries her and runs. Half a mile away from 124, Beloved stands waiting for Sethe, a long shawl in her hands. She tries to wrap it around Sethe, but the latter chides Beloved and wraps it around her instead. As Paul watches the two women walk ahead, he tries to fight the anger rising in him and wonders if Denver is his ally or Beloved’s.
Back at 124, Paul D finds his restlessness sated when Sethe asks him to sleep in her quarters permanently. Grateful that Sethe is on his side, he sleeps peacefully in their bed. As he sleeps, Sethe thinks back to Paul D’s suggestion and doubts that she is strong enough to go through motherhood all over again. Although weakly, she also suspects that Beloved may be her dead daughter returned to life, though she has resolved to ignore that possibility.
Downstairs, Denver sits with Beloved, who asks her sister to help her drive Paul D away. However, Denver points out that Sethe might get angry at Beloved if Paul D leaves. Deeply upset, Beloved ends up pulling out a back tooth, prompting Denver to ask if it hurts.
Beloved stares at the tooth, convinced that it marks the beginning of her falling into pieces and scattering into the wind. Without Sethe, she feels incomplete and disunified, and the loss of her tooth at the same time that Denver reaffirms Sethe’s love for Paul D scares her. Beloved begins to cry, and Denver holds her, sharing her feelings of jealousy and anger. Outside, the snow piles up high.