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Beloved | Part 2, Chapter 25 | Summary

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Summary

Stamp Paid apologizes to Paul D because no one has taken him in and tells him he can stay with any black person in town. He offers his house, but Paul D wants to be alone. Stamp Paid then relates the story of his name. His wife, Vashti, had been forced to sleep with their master's son, he explains, and one night, when she returned to him, Stamp Paid wanted to break her neck. Instead, he changed his name. He tells how he used to ferry fugitive slaves to freedom, declaring their debts paid also.

Stamp confesses that he was there when Sethe killed her baby. He tells Paul D that she wasn't crazy: "She was trying to out-hurt the hurter." Paul D confides that he is afraid of Sethe and the girl in the house. Stamp Paid becomes curious about the girl and asks Paul D about her, but Paul D doesn't know much except that she just showed up. But then he adds, "She reminds me of something, Something, look like, I'm supposed to remember."

Stamp Paid asks Paul D if the girl is the reason he left 124. Paul D shudders and feels sick, and then he asks Stamp Paid how much a black person is supposed to take. Stamp Paid says they must take all they can. Paul D can only ask, "Why?"

Analysis

Stamp Paid wants to find a home where Paul D can live. It is a gesture borne of the sense of community of which Stamp Paid is a member, the black community of Cincinnati that looks after each other.

The story of Stamp Paid's name is symbolic of the way slave owners controlled every aspect of slaves' lives, preventing them from building ties of love and family. When a slave was sold, the bill of sale was validated with a stamp, indicating the price paid. Stamp Paid's experience having his wife taken and sexually used by his young white master was an almost overwhelming sacrifice, and it gives him the feeling that all his debts have been forever paid in full. He no longer owes anyone anything. His new name is a way to separate himself from his hurtful past. He helps other slaves to do the same by ferrying them to freedom.

Stamp Paid supports Sethe's story that she killed her child out of love, even though he might have made a different choice himself. The reader may consider that Stamp Paid is able to love and care for Sethe when the rest of the community cannot because he understands what she did. Paul D's question reinforces the theme of past versus present and the painful memories all slaves face. Stamp Paid tries to show Paul D, through his reply, that everyone must confront the past in order to move on. Paul D is not quite ready to do this: his repeated cries of "why?" spring from anger and anguish.

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