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Literature Study GuidesBelovedPart 1 Chapter 10 Summary

Beloved | Study Guide

Toni Morrison

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Part 1: Chapter 10

Kristen Over, Associate Professor at Northeastern Illinois University, provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Part 1: Chapter 10 of Toni Morrison's book Beloved.

Beloved | Part 1, Chapter 10 | Summary



Chapter 10 represents a flashback to the time when Paul D was forced to work on a chain gang after trying to kill the new master schoolteacher sold him to. The men on the chain gang slept in wooden boxes that were sunk into a deep ditch a thousand feet long. After 86 days it began to rain, and it kept raining for days until the men could not work. Chained together, they lived day and night in their wooden boxes until one day the ditch caved in. Diving under the bars of their cage doors, the convicts escaped. The entire gang made it to a Cherokee village, where their chains were cut off.

Paul D asked the Cherokee how he would get north, to be free. The Cherokee pointed and told Paul D to "follow the tree flowers," and he followed the blossoms all the way to Delaware. Along the way he locked up his bitter memories "into a tobacco tin lodged in his chest." By the time he arrived at 124, "nothing in this world could pry it open."


The brutality of slavery is once again shown in Paul D's memories of the chain gang. The men suffered extreme abuse and lived under the constant threat of death at the whim of the guards. Finally, they escaped only by working together. This sense of community was important while they were slaves but was even more so as they worked together to escape. Paul D's experience helps the reader understand why being shunned by their community has such a negative effect on Sethe, Baby Suggs, and Denver.

The trees Paul D follows north symbolize the hope of freedom, and they stand in contrast to the tree on Sethe's back, which came from the brutality of slavery.

Paul D has no sense of direction in his life. His experience on the chain gang almost killed his desire for life and his belief in the possibility of a better future. He wanders around aimlessly, afraid to become attached to any person or place. He believes that to love anyone is dangerous, an effect of his experiences as a slave. As he rambles, he begins to repress the memories of his brutal slave life. The reader gets a sense that he has been looking for Sethe all his life, when he finally greets her at 124.

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