Stamp Paid approaches 124, feeling bad that he has caused Paul D to leave the house. He realizes that the last time he went to 124 was to take Baby Suggs away to be buried. At Baby Suggs’ funeral, Sethe was silent and did not join in the hymns, offending the other mourners. As he gets closer to the house he hears a loud mix of voices and can only make out the word “mine.” He goes to the door to knock but can’t bring himself to. He tries to knock on the door for the next six days but turns back each time before knocking.
At Baby Suggs’ funeral, Sethe offended the community by acting like an individual apart from them. After the death of her child, she (and Denver) became increasingly isolated from the local community, such that Stamp Paid feels the need to knock on their door, rather than simply enter as he is accustomed to do with most people’s homes.
Meanwhile, Sethe is trying to move on without Paul D, who she feels has abandoned her like all the other townspeople. Beloved finds a pair of ice skates and asks what they are. Sethe decides to take Beloved and Denver skating. They go skating, laughing and enjoying themselves. They return to 124 and drink hot milk in front of a warm fire. Beloved begins to hum a song. Shocked, Sethe says that it is the song she once sang to her children and that no one else knows that song.
While the townspeople feel offended and horrified by Sethe's actions, Sethe feels abandoned by them. Sethe attempts to make 124 work as a home with only Beloved, Denver, and her. Beloved’s knowledge of Sethe’s song further associates her with Sethe’s dead child.
Stamp Paid approaches 124 again, remembering how Baby Suggs became exhausted and stopped her gatherings at the clearing after Sethe killed her baby. He had tried to persuade her not to give up her gatherings but all she wanted to do was stay in bed and think about colors. As Stamp Paid approaches 124, he hears a roaring of voices that seem to vocalize the collective suffering of all slaves and decides not to knock on the door.
Baby Suggs stopping her gatherings is indicative of the gradual withdrawal from the community of the inhabitants of 124 following the death of Sethe’s child. Stamp Paid’s thought suggests that Beloved represents not only Sethe’s past sufferings, but perhaps the pains of slaves more generally.
The morning after the skating trip, Sethe thinks that the hand-holding shadows she saw on the day of the carnival were not Paul D, Denver, and her, but rather Beloved, Denver, and her. She thinks that Paul D tried to convince her to be concerned with the outside world, when everything she needs is within 124.
Sethe’s reinterpretation of the shadows shows that she now hopes to make a home with only Denver and Beloved. In doing so, she begins to withdraw even more from the surrounding community, becoming more isolated within 124, within her own past and ghosts.
Sethe thinks that Beloved knows and understands everything about her past. She remembers burying her child, specifically how she slept with an engraver so that he would engrave something on the baby’s tombstone. She wanted “dearly beloved” but only got one word: “beloved.” Sethe is now convinced that Beloved is the returned spirit of her dead child.
Stamp Paid finally works up the nerve to knock on Sethe’s door, but no one answers. He sees Beloved through a window. He tells Ella that there is a strange woman at 124 and decides to ask Paul D about it. He learns that Paul D is sleeping in the cellar of the church.
Even though the inhabitants of 124 have abandoned the community, Stamp Paid still feels a responsibility toward Sethe and Denver and begins to seek help for them.
Sethe is late to work. She takes food back home from the restaurant, which reminds her of Sixo stealing a pig on Sweet Home. Schoolteacher questioned him about it and he said he was only feeding himself so that he would do more work for Schoolteacher, so it was not stealing. Schoolteacher beat him to show him that “definitions belonged to the definers—not the defined.”
Schoolteacher denied his slaves the ability to think and reason for themselves, as he does explicitly with Sixo in this memory of Sethe's. One of the reasons for the importance of storytelling is that it allows for slaves to be the definers of their own experiences, rather than being defined by someone else’s story.
Sethe remembers more about Sweet Home. Schoolteacher measured the slaves and counted their teeth, as if they were animals. She remembers something she has never told anyone: she once overheard Schoolteacher and his nephew writing in a book and listing Sethe’s animal and human characteristics in different columns.
Sethe remembers talking to Halle about Schoolteacher, asking if he thought Schoolteacher was different from Mr. Garner. Halle said it didn’t matter: he was white and a slave-owner. After enduring some of the cruelty of Schoolteacher, the slaves of Sweet Home decided to run away. The planned escape didn’t work, but Sethe was able to sneak her children out.
Halle’s comment emphasizes that, although Mr. Garner was kinder than Schoolteacher, he was still a slave-owner and therefore not essentially different from Schoolteacher. The idea of a kind slave-owner (as Mr. Garner would understand himself to be) is oxymoronic, since to own slaves is, by definition, to be cruel and unkind.
Stamp Paid believes that the noises of 124 are the voices of angry, dead slaves and ex-slaves. He reflects that white people think that “under every dark skin was a jungle” but he thinks that “it was the jungle whitefolks planted in them.” Since no one has come to the door even after he knocked, he gives up on trying to see Sethe at her home.