Paul D thinks of himself as the last of the Sweet Home men, for he is the only survivor amongst the five male slaves. Although Garner encouraged all of them to think independently like men, it was a cruel trick, for all of the black males were emasculated by their role as slaves and by their owners, especially Schoolteacher, who totally ruled over them. He thinks about Sixo trying to prove his manliness. Although his body was being roasted over flames, Sixo refused to cry out.
Paul D realizes he is still not in control of himself. Under Beloved's influence, he has become a "ragdoll--picked up and put back down anywhere any time by a girl young enough to be his daughter." His lack of control over himself feels worse than it did when he trembled on the chain gang in Georgia. After surviving his imprisonment and escaping from the woman in Delaware, Paul D had falsely believed he was strong. Now, however, he finds himself at the whim of a young woman. In order to overcome the girl's hold on him, Paul D decides to tell Sethe what is happening between him and Beloved. He decides to meet her one evening when she is getting off work. Although he feels ashamed to ask a woman to protect him, he will beg Sethe to help him break out of his dependence on Beloved.
Sethe is pleased to see that Paul D has come to meet her. When he tells her she will not like what he has to say, she thinks that he is going to leave her. Instead, he says that he wants her to get pregnant and have his child. Not knowing what to say, she simply laughs. They walk home, flirting with each other. When it begins to snow, Paul D puts Sethe on his back and runs down the road. As they approach home, they see Beloved coming toward them with a shawl for Sethe. Since Beloved has no coat for herself, Sethe wraps the shawl around the girl and hurries her into the house. Paul D is upset that his romantic moments with Sethe have been interrupted. He then sees Denver looking at them through the window and wonders whose ally she is.
Sethe tells Paul D that it is too cold for him to sleep outside and
invites him upstairs to her bed where he belongs. In bed that night, Sethe
thinks of how she felt when he asked her to have a baby with him. She
wonders why he wants a child and decides that she will decline his offer.
She feels too guilty about murdering her own daughter. She is also convinced
that Beloved is the reincarnation of the child she killed, for she has
longed for her to come back.
In this chapter, Paul D explains that he feels his manhood has been compromised by his days of slavery. Although Mr. Garner was a good man who let him and the others have some freedom, he was not truly allowed to be a man. Then when Garner died and Schoolteacher came to run the plantation, there was no freedom and no chance of proving one's masculinity. Because he never had the chance to truly grow into his manhood, Paul D feels that he is not strong enough to stand up to Beloved and break off their relationship. As a result, he decides to tell Sethe about the affair and ask for her help in ending it.
Paul D goes to the restaurant to meet Sethe as she gets off of work. He fully intends to tell her about the affair with Beloved and beg for her help. Instead of telling her, however, he does something more productive. He firms up his commitment to her by asking her to bear his child. In the end, this commitment will allow him to regain his relationship with Sethe, to cut off ties with Beloved, and to restore his manhood through procreation.
Sethe does not know how to react to Paul D's request that she bear his
child. Her immediate response is to laugh. When she thinks about the request
later in bed, she wonders why Paul D even wants to have a child. She also
decides, out of guilt for her dead daughter, that she will decline his
offer. She is still too preoccupied with the past to make a commitment
for the future.
In this chapter, Denver sits at the table and watches Beloved sucking
her forefinger. When Denver mentions Paul D, Beloved asks her to make
him go away. Denver says that Sethe would be upset if Paul D left. Denver's
response clearly upsets Beloved. She reaches into her mouth and pulls
out a back tooth. She thinks that she is falling to pieces and that parts
of her are going to start dropping off. She begins to cry as the snow
falls around 124 Bluestone.
In this short chapter, Beloved feels she is losing control over Paul D. She has noticed that he and Sethe seem to be happy together once again, and she assumes that they are upstairs making love. As a result, she begs Denver to make Paul D go away. When Denver responds that Sethe would be upset if Paul D left, Beloved is miserable. She reacts to her pain by inflicting more pain on herself. She reaches into her mouth and pulls out one of her back teeth. Beloved feels like she is falling to pieces. In truth, the loss of the tooth is the beginning of her dissolution.
It is significant that it is snowing outside. The power dynamics in the house
will be influenced by the snow imagery. The snow is capable of isolating
the occupants of 124 Bluestone and forcing them to deal with their pasts
and their relationships to each other.