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by Toni Morrison

Beloved Chapter 17 Summary

  • Here's the thing: Paul D's sure that that isn't Sethe's mouth.
  • He's staring at a picture of Sethe in a news clipping, but it just doesn't look right to him.
  • It's hog season in Cincinnati, so every black man can have a job if he wants one, tending to the pigs heading for the slaughterhouse. It's also the last week of work, which brings us to Stamp Paid and why he has decided to choose this time to show Paul D the news article.
  • Even though Paul D doesn't read the article, he does know, though, that any time a black person's picture is in the paper, there has to be something bad going on. And not just the regular sort of bad, either. Runaway slaves, rapes, hangings—they don't make the news. Not when it's related to black people.
  • The only time that blacks are in the news is when something really bad happens, something that makes white people excited. Or nervous.
  • That's why he doesn't believe that the picture in the news clipping is really Sethe—because that wouldn't be the Sethe that he knows.
  • Stamp Paid looks at Paul D and realizes that he's going to have to tell him about that day; how it started with him picking blackberries on such snake-infested ground that even the birds didn't want the berries; but how he picked those berries anyway just for Baby Suggs and her grandkids and Sethe. And the party too—how there was so much food so that everyone came. And how he came by the next day to chop wood since there wasn't any kindling left from all the cooking the day before.
  • He's also about to tell Paul D of how, that morning, Baby Suggs was restless; how she kept looking up the river so much that even he looked up the river—so much so that both of them missed the four horsemen coming down the road toward the house. He's pretty sure that this is an important detail: the fact that they missed the four horsemen in part because the whole town had been at their party and so hadn't been around to pick up clues about the four horsemen when they stopped in town.
  • He's also pretty certain that those people left in town who didn't warn them—they were born of some kind of meanness that made them ignore the four white men asking about Sethe and her kids.
  • But Paul D still can't believe it's Sethe; he keeps saying so.
  • So Stamp Paid figures there's no way Paul D can hack the details of how Sethe gathered up her children before the men got to the house, flew to the shed, and prepared to kill her children. Paul D just wouldn't believe it.
  • Instead, Stamp Paid begins to read Paul D the article—something Paul D can't do himself since he can't read.
  • When Stamp Paid's done reading, Paul D says again that the woman in the picture just doesn't have Sethe's mouth. Paul D doesn't believe the article. He can't.
  • Looking at Paul D, Stamp Paid starts to wonder if maybe his own memory is lying.
  • After all, the man has so much conviction—so much confidence in Sethe.
  • Maybe the past didn't happen after all. But of course, everyone knows that isn't true.

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