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Beloved | Part 1, Chapter 13 | Summary

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Summary

Paul D recalls thinking that he was one of only five blacks in Kentucky who were "men" because Garner had trusted them and listened to their opinions. It was schoolteacher who showed them the truth—that they were slaves and their opinions didn't matter to a white man. He once thought that schoolteacher was wrong; now he isn't so sure. If he is a man, how can Beloved have such control over him? He needs Sethe's help to break the spell, and he decides to tell her that he has been having sex with Beloved and ask for her help in breaking free.

Ready to make his confession and see what happens, Paul D meets Sethe as she is leaving her work at the restaurant. At that critical moment, he loses confidence and says what wasn't on his mind: he wants her to have his child. It wasn't the solution he had planned, but it was a way to hold onto Sethe while breaking Beloved's spell over him. When they arrive home, Sethe comes to his rescue by asking him to sleep upstairs with her.

Sethe ponders why Paul D wants to have a child with her. She decides he does not want to share her with the girls—that he resents her children. She realizes she is building a case against getting pregnant: she has all the children she needs. She recognizes that she has been dreaming of Beloved's face for years and acknowledges to herself that she believes Beloved is her dead child come back to her.

Analysis

In this chapter Paul D questions his manhood. He recalls the kindness of Mr. Garner, his owner, who regarded him and the other male slaves at Sweet Home as men. But this turned out to be a mean trick, he decides, because they were men only within the confines of Sweet Home; outside, they were just slaves. Schoolteacher, a more malevolent slave owner, did not believe he was a man. Now Paul D does not believe it either; if he were really a man, he could break his relationship with Beloved. When he tries to confess his affair to Sethe, he again fails to be a man. Instead, he takes the coward's route, asking her to have a child with him. This, however, has the effect he was hoping for: the spell Beloved has over him is broken, and he still has Sethe.

Sethe begins to doubt his motives for wanting a child. She has come to think of Beloved as her own child; she doesn't want more. The growing mother-child bond between Sethe and Beloved is becoming more evident.

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