Paul D sits on the porch of the Church of the Holy Redeemer and sips a bottle of liquor. He holds his wrists between his knees because he has nothing else to hold onto. His heart, symbolized by the tin can, has been ripped apart. "His tobacco tin, blown open, spilled contents that floated freely and made him their play and prey." In his pain, Paul D remembers his time at Sweet Home and the slowly emerging realization that the life the slaves had there fostered an illusion of freedom and independence when in fact it was not. Garner had called them men, but they had not been trained to act like men. As a result, it was easy for Schoolteacher to treat them like children; but Paul D felt like Schoolteacher was an anomaly. He did not believe Sixo's stories about the brutal slave system outside Sweet Home. It was not until he was taken to the labor farm in Georgia that Paul D got a true taste of the reality of being black in the South. Since his escape from Sweet Home, Paul D feels that everything in his life has gone wrong.
Paul D thinks back to the day of the escape and how he lost contact with Halle and Paul A. He traveled away from Sweet Home with Sixo and Three-Mile Woman; but the men were soon caught by Schoolteacher. He remembers how Sixo put up a fight that resulted in his later being burned alive. As he was dying, Sixo sang a song about hatred to his soon to be born son, Seven-O. Since Thirty-Mile Woman managed to escape, he hopes that his child that she carries will be safe and free. Thinking of his future son, he dies laughing.
As punishment for Paul D, a spiked collar was put around his neck, and chains were placed on his ankles. The decision was also made to sell him for nine hundred dollars, an amount that will buy two young slaves to replace him. After he is collared and chained, Sethe comes to see Paul D. He is ashamed of his condition and hates having to tell her that he does not know where Halle is. He also explains that Sixo has been burned to death. She tells him she is going to run from Sweet Home and that her children are already hidden in the cornfield. Paul D thinks about how she was later taken to the barn and brutalized by the nephews. He guesses that after they whipped her so badly, none of them suspected that she would run. When she did flee, they tracked her all the way to Cincinnati because she had value to them. She was "property that reproduced itself without cost."
Paul D remembers Sixo's words "Seven-O." He knows they meant
that the Thirty-Mile Woman got away with his child in her womb. Paul D
remembers Sixo's laughter. They hitch him to a buckboard and then he sees
Halle with butter all over his face and then the rooster.
As the chapter opens, Paul D is in a state of depression. He is sitting on the church steps drinking liquor and thinking of his past. Since he left 124 Bluestone and Sethe, he has been miserable. He realizes that he has opened up his heart, which now gives him pain. In his misery, he reflects on his days at Sweet Home, where Mr. Garner created a world that he smugly thought was better than that of his neighbors. For the most part, he treated his slaves kindly and called them men. He even convinced some of them that the life he provided was better than freedom. In reality, Mr. Garner did his slaves a disservice, for he did not prepare them for the cruelty of people like Schoolteacher and his nephews. Additionally, when Garner's slaves left Sweet Home they were not prepared to handle the hatred that would be inflicted upon them throughout the South.
Paul D thinks about the day he escaped from Sweet Home. Travelling with Sixo and Thirty-Mile Woman, he was soon caught by Schoolteacher, along with Sixo. Unfortunately, Sixo puts up a fight and was later burned to death for his behavior. The death of Sixo clearly stands out as one of the landmarks of Paul D's psychic life. He remembers how Sixo resisted the white men until the very end. He made certain that Thirty-Mile Woman and his unborn child that she was carrying escaped to freedom. Then as he was being burned, Sixo named his child Seven-O and died laughing at the thought that the baby should be born a free man.
Paul D admires Sixo as a strong and powerful person; he wishes that he had
a way to define himself as a man. He knows that he is more than a piece
of property to be traded for nine hundred dollars, but he does not know
his true worth. He feels that allowing himself to love Sethe has weakened
him, for his life is now more miserable than ever. He even accepts that
Sethe has more strength than he, for she managed to get her children and
herself to freedom and was willing to murder her child to keep her from
becoming a slave.
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