Stamp Paid approaches Paul D as he sits on the church steps. He apologizes for the community for not offering to put Paul D up until he could find a place to live. He defends his neighbors by saying that there is not "a sweeter bunch of colored anywhere than what's right here;" but he admits that they sometimes have a problem with pride. Paul D responds that the preacher offered to let him stay in his home, but he declined the invitation, wanting to be alone for awhile in order to sort things out. As the two men sit in silence, a rider approaches on a horse. He stops in front of them and says he is looking "for a gal name of Judy" who works by the slaughterhouse. Stamp Paid says he does not know her, and Paul D drinks from his bottle, ignoring the man. Before the man departs, he tells Paul he should show more respect than to drink in front of a church.

Stamp Paid tells Paul D that he is ready to rectify any harm he has done and to help him to get on his feet. Paul D asks about the possibility of Judy, a prostitute, taking him in. Stamp Paid says her name is Judith and that he knows her like he knows everybody else in the community. When Paul D presses him about whether Judith will take him in, Stamp Paid digresses and tells Paul D about how he got his name. Originally, he was called Joshua and was married to a woman named Vashti. He never touched her for a whole year while the master's son was having sex with her. He wanted to kill the man, but Vashti had told him not to. He decided to speak to the man's wife. When he saw her outside, he asked her if she had seen his wife Vashti, who was wearing a black ribbon. The woman blushed, for she knew that her husband had given Vashti the black ribbon with a cameo on it. In spite of the confrontation with the wife, the forced sex did not stop. When the man was finally through with Vashti, she came home to Stamp Paid. He realized that he wanted to break his wife's neck. Instead he changed his name to Stamp Paid and began a new life for himself.

Stamp Paid says he has something else to say to Paul D. He explains that he saw what happened the day Sethe killed her daughter. He says that Sethe was simply "trying to outhurt the hurter." Paul D admits that the truth about Sethe scares him; he also admits that he is bothered by Beloved's appearance. Stamp Paid wonders if Beloved is the force that made Paul D leave 124 Bluestone. The chapter ends with Paul D asking, "How much is a nigger supposed to take?" Stamp Paid answers, "All he can." Paul D repeats "why" -- over and over again.


Paul D, driven to a deep despair about his life, wonders why he has not died sooner. Now sleeping in the church and drinking himself into greater misery, he feels isolated and in great pain. He knows that opening his heart to Sethe has made matters worse for him; he feels exposed and worn down.

When Stamp Paid approaches and offers to help, Paul D grows sarcastic and suggests that perhaps Stamp Paid can arrange for Judy, the town prostitute, to take him in. Stamp Paid's story about the abuse of slave women by their masters and the masters' sons counters Paul D's callousness about the woman named Judith whom the white man on the horse is seeking. In a like manner, Stamp Paid's story about Sethe killing her daughter in order to "out hurt the hurter" is an effort to make Paul D understand her motivation. Finally, Stamp Paid's story about his wife emphasizes an important point that has been developed throughout the novel: family structure is destroyed under slavery, for slave children cannot enjoy the company and teaching of their parents and husbands are deprived of their wives. Losing his wife, first to the sexual desires of a white master and then to death, Stamp Paid changes his name from Joshua to symbolize his break with the past and a new life of freedom.

After listening to Stamp Paid's stories, Paul D asks how much a "nigger" can endure. Stamp Paid, with resignation, says that they must all endure as much as they can.

Cite this page:

Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on A Long Way Gone".