Beloved

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Beloved Part 1, Chapter 18 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
When he gets back to 124, Paul D confronts Sethe about the news clipping. Sethe avoids the subject, telling him about her children and how she had no idea how to raise them on Sweet Home, since she was the only slave woman there.
Being a mother on Sweet Home was even more difficult for Sethe, since she was the only slave woman there and had to figure out how to raise her children alone. This implies that she may have had an even more intense love for her children—she had to figure out how to do everything for them herself.
Themes
Motherhood Theme Icon
Sethe tells Paul D about her escape from Sweet Home, and how she did it by herself, without Halle’s help. She talks about how she felt when she arrived and felt freedom. She realizes that she is circling around the subject of her child’s death and thinks that she can never explain it to anyone, but that she was trying to carry her children away to “where no one could hurt them.”
Sethe’s thoughts stress that her killing her baby was an act of love, an attempt to protect her children from slavery. She had saved herself and had no one to rely on but herself, and killing them was the only way she had to save them.
Themes
Motherhood Theme Icon
Finally, Sethe tells Paul D that she stopped Schoolteacher from taking her children, saying, “I took and put my babies where they’d be safe.” Paul D is shocked and thinks that Sethe is different from when he knew her on Sweet Home. He tells her that her love is “too thick.” Sethe asks what else she could have done, and Paul D responds, “You got two feet, Sethe, not four.” He leaves 124.
Again, Sethe insists that she acted out of love. Paul D’s comment implies that Sethe played into slave-owners’ dehumanizing ideas of slaves by acting like an animal. He believes that no love should be intense enough to make someone kill the object of their love. Sethe and Paul D had been rediscovering their past, rediscovering their memories together in order to move into the future. But Paul is unable to work through this revelation of the past, and so he leaves.
Themes
Slavery Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon