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Paul D’s Tobacco Tin Symbol Analysis

Paul D’s Tobacco Tin Symbol Icon
Paul D says that instead of a heart, he has a tobacco tin in his chest, where he keeps all of his painful memories and emotions. This image symbolizes his need to repress memories and hold back emotions, just as Sethe and other slaves have had to do in order to survive. Otherwise, attempting to confront the horrible realities of slavery can completely overwhelm a person, as happens to Halle and other slaves who go mad. This kind of repression is thus necessary for Paul D’s basic, physical survival as a slave and a prisoner on the chain gang. But it cannot last forever: as the novel progresses, Paul D’s tobacco tin is pried open, and his past memories catch up with him.
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Paul D’s Tobacco Tin Symbol Timeline in Beloved

The timeline below shows where the symbol Paul D’s Tobacco Tin appears in Beloved. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 7
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
...the experience of having the bit. He keeps the rest of the story in “that tobacco tin buried in his chest where a red heart used to be.” He resolves to keep... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 10
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
...that it took him a long time to put this painful past away in the tobacco tin , so that “nothing in this world could pry it open.” (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 11
Storytelling, Memory, and the Past Theme Icon
...sleep with her. He refuses but she eventually seduces him. As she approaches him, the tobacco tin holding his painful memories begins to open. (full context)