Paul D thinks about his time at Sweet Home. Mr. Garner let his slaves correct him, handle guns, choose a wife, learn to read, and was otherwise relatively lenient toward them. When Schoolteacher came and took control of the farm, though, things were radically different and much harsher. Paul D’s recent behavior—not being able to stay put in 124 and sleeping with Beloved—makes him question whether Schoolteacher was right about him being less than a man.
Schoolteacher exemplifies the cruel treatment of slave-owners, which causes both physical and psychological pain to the extent that Paul D has internalized Schoolteacher’s racist thinking, questioning his own worth as a man.
Paul D resolves to tell Sethe about what’s been happening and goes to meet her at the restaurant where she works. He finds her and prepares to tell her but changes his mind at the last second and tells her that he wants to have a child with her. Sethe thinks the idea is ridiculous.
Paul D is unable to voice his concerns to Sethe, perhaps because he does not want to risk losing the possibility of having a home with her, even if it is a troubled one.
Sethe and Paul D walk back to 124. It begins to snow and they start to run, Paul D hoisting Sethe on his back. They encounter Beloved waiting for Sethe near 124, who breaks up the intimacy between Sethe and Paul D.
Once again, Beloved comes between Paul D and Sethe, obstructing their attempts to have a life together at 124.
One night, Sethe finally says something about Paul D sleeping in the cold house and tells him to come upstairs at night, upsetting Beloved. Sethe’s kindness reminds Paul D of the woman he stayed with in Delaware, who gave him a bed with clean sheets and fed him. He was unspeakably grateful to her. Sethe thinks about Paul wanting to have a child and resolves that she cannot handle being a mother to another child.
Paul D’s memory of the woman in Delaware shows an earlier example of his failed attempt to settle down at a home. Sethe’s thoughts on motherhood emphasize the intense responsibility, hard work, love, vulnerability, and duty of being a mother.