Paul D's trying to think through something that's been bothering him for a long time: was he only a man at Sweet Home because Mr. Garner said that he was?
No, that isn't it. He and the other Sweet Home men were men because of the relationship between Mr. Garner and them.
Mr. Garner listened to his slaves and even allowed them to disagree with him. They could do things without his permission because Mr. Garner trusted their judgment.
Once schoolteacher came, however, all that changed.
Paul D realizes what a slave really is: an animal. The men on Sweet Home were only men at Sweet Home. As soon as they stepped off the plantation, they became something else in the eyes of the rest of the world.
He used to think that his strength came from knowing that schoolteacher was wrong.
But if schoolteacher really was wrong, then why can't Paul D say no to Beloved? You see, here's his logic: a real man would have the willpower to do what he wants, to do what's right.
He can't even keep from getting moved out of 124 or, for that matter, from getting moved from position to position by Beloved. And he doesn't even like Beloved!
Ashamed, Paul D decides that schoolteacher must have been right after all.
Paul D realizes that he has to do something. His body isn't his own anymore, but at least he can still talk.
He waits for Sethe outside her work, planning what he's going to say to her.
He's going to tell her the truth about the past three weeks—including the fact that he's been sleeping with Beloved.
When Sethe comes out, though, she looks so happy to see him that he loses his guts.
Instead, he tells her that he wants her to get pregnant. What a way to follow through, huh?
Sethe laughs. She's too old to have another baby, she says, but she's secretly happy that Paul D would ask.
Paul D and Sethe walk back to 124 together, flirting like young kids.
About half a mile from 124, they see a figure coming up the road. We bet you know who it is.
Yep—it's Beloved. Who else can ruin the mood like she does?
She's just standing there without a coat, even though it's been snowing for hours.
And how's this for added drama? She's holding out a shawl, but it isn't for herself—it's for Sethe.And of course, she never even looks at Paul D. She's just staring at Sethe.
Sethe does what any mother would do: she takes that shawl and wraps Beloved in it instead. Paul D? Who?
Paul D's seething: clearly, he's the third wheel here.
But Sethe manages to solve Paul D's problems, after all. He doesn't even have to say anything to her about it.
That night, she tells him to come up and sleep with her where he belongs.
Now it's Beloved's turn to seethe: Paul D can feel it across the kitchen table from where Beloved is sitting, but he concentrates on Sethe's smile.
A bit later, Sethe lies awake thinking about Paul D and building a case against having more children. She's had kids already and being a mother is really hard. (Go ahead—just ask your mom!)
It's also all that she wants: to have all her children back with her. And what with Beloved showing up that first day and Sethe's water breaking at the sight of her, Sethe feels totally justified about thinking that's all she should want. Especially since it's been her dream for years.
While she's thinking all of this, her hand is on top of Paul D's sleeping, breathing chest...