The novel flashes back to Baby Suggs waiting for Sethe and Halle to make it to 124 from Sweet Home. She is delighted to see Sethe arrive but is still anxious for Halle to come. She doesn’t want to tempt fate by celebrating the good fortune of Sethe and Denver’s arrival too soon.
Baby Suggs’ worries exemplify the awful conditions of slavery, as she is too anxious to celebrate any good fortune, since she is accustomed to loss. Baby Suggs wants her own baby—Halle—to return to her.
Stamp Paid visits soon after Sethe’s arrival and, seeing her healthy baby, goes to a nearby stream and gathers blackberries, bringing them back to 124. Baby Suggs decides to make pies and invite others to 124 to have some kind of celebration. The gathering turns into a huge feast for ninety people, with plentiful food and drink. Baby Suggs’ modest provisions somehow turn into enough food for all the people, and more. Those who attend the feast begin to feel some jealousy toward Baby Suggs and her lavish feast with so much of her family reunited.
The miraculous profusion of food recalls the biblical story of Jesus feeding 5000 men with just five loaves of bread and two fish. Yet the other townspeople, who have also suffered or had family or friends who have suffered, come to see the feast as an excessive celebration or flaunting of her own good luck.
The next day, Baby Suggs can feel the disapproval of her neighbors and she realizes that she has offended people with her excess. She senses something bad coming, though she does not know what it could be.
Baby Suggs has offended her neighbors by celebrating herself and her own individual family, in the face of the community.
Baby Suggs remembers when Halle and she were bought for Sweet Home. She had injured her hip and could not work very well, but Mrs. Garner was not cruel to her as other slave owners were. Her hip was in pain every day. Halle saw this and worked extra time to buy her freedom.
The Garners were kinder owners than Schoolteacher, but they still treated their slaves as slaves. While they allowed Halle to buy Baby Suggs’ freedom, they still treated her freedom as something that had to be bought.
At Sweet Home, Baby Suggs realized that she and Halle had arrived at a better place, but were still slaves. The Garners ran “a special kind of slavery.” Upon becoming free, Baby Suggs immediately felt different, and suddenly became aware of her own heartbeat.
The Garners had “a special kind of slavery” but it is still nothing compared to actual freedom. Upon being freed, Baby Suggs is suddenly aware of herself as a person, as exemplified by her sudden awareness of her own heartbeat.
Once Halle buys Baby Suggs’ freedom, Mr. Garner delivers Baby Suggs to the Bodwins, who will help her get set up in her new life. Mr. Garner calls Baby Suggs Jenny. She asks why and he says that was what was on her sales ticket. She says that her husband’s name was Suggs and he called her Baby, so her name is Baby Suggs. Mr. Garner thinks it isn’t a very good name, but Baby Suggs keeps it.
Baby Suggs’ keeping her own name—the name that she was called by the man who loved her—rather than taking the one that slave-owners assigned to her, signifies that she is now free and her own person. Further, as a slave she would have had to listen to Mr. Garner. As a free woman she can do what she wants.
Baby Suggs meets the Bodwins and they suggest some jobs she can do for money. They tell her about a house where she can stay in return for doing some work. Baby Suggs attempts to locate lost members of her family, but doesn’t know where to write to and eventually gives up. But things work out decently well, as Sethe and her children make it to 124, up until her celebration “that put Christmas to shame.” Now she senses something bad coming.
While Baby Suggs cannot locate her family, she finds a kind of family in the community of people who help establish her new life, such as the Bodwins. The celebration, which seemed to place her own joy above the considerations of the community, break the trust that was built.