So you can breathe a sigh of relief because we're leaving the strange voices behind for a second and returning to Paul D. Remember him?
Paul D's sitting in the church, staring at his hands. The church isn't much; it's small, cold, and used to be a dry goods store. If you want to feel sorry for Paul D, it's the perfect setting to make you feel that way.
His tobacco tin (hm… reminds us of his tin-box heart) has spilled wide open and everything inside is floating freely out.Now he can't stop remembering the past and he's going way back…
To his childhood: Paul D never knew his mother or his father. Having never had a typical family, Paul D always grew up fascinated by large slave families who were still together: he saw a family like that once in Maryland.
When he was little, Mr. Garner bought him and his two half-brothers (that'd be Paul A and Paul F, in case you're wondering).
For twenty years he lived at Sweet Home, where he had his brothers and his friends, Halle and Sixo, Baby Suggs, and the Garners.
The Garners treated them all well.
And then…Mr. Garner died. And Mrs. Garner got sick. And then schoolteacher came. You know how that story goes.
Paul D remembers that Sixo thought Mr. and Mrs. Garner died from other causes (a gunshot in the ear for the Mr.; bad medicine from the doctor for the Mrs.).
Apparently, the other slaves laughed at Sixo, but we're guessing they really shouldn't have because Sixo seemed to know a lot. He was the only one who wasn't sorry when Mr. Garner died.
And it was Sixo, after all, who explained to Paul D why schoolteacher came to the plantation.
Mrs. Garner couldn't be the only white person on the plantation. That's why she invited schoolteacher to come.
Paul D ponders this fact of slavery: everything depended on Mr. Garner. If Mr. Garner died, then everyone on the plantation would fall apart. Of course, that's exactly what happens.
For the longest time, Paul D thought that schoolteacher had it all wrong and Mr. Garner had it right. It wasn't right to abuse the slaves the way that schoolteacher did; they were men, right?
Now, though, he's not sure if there was much of a difference between schoolteacher and Mr. Garner. Was he only a man because Mr. Garner had said that he was?And if that was the case, wasn't he only a man because of Mr. Garner's will—not his own?
Paul D realizes that he and his half-brothers had been ignorant at Sweet Home, unlike Sixo, Halle, Sethe, and Baby Suggs.
The Pauls didn't think there was anything all that bad about Sweet Home or even slavery because all they had known were the Garners and their gentle ways.
So it took them a whole night to decide whether they should escape, again, unlike the others who knew differently.And then there was his tree—a really young aspen (not even a sapling, more like a shoot).
Paul D recalls how he loved that tree, but not because it represented life—in fact, just the opposite.
(By the way, if you haven't figured it out yet, this happens a lot in the novel: things are the opposite of what you expect. The lesson? Expect the unexpected.)
When he was in Alfred, Georgia, the tree reminded him of "murdered life" because it had branches that you could use to whip a horse (or a man).
Things changed though when the Cherokee told him to run toward the blossoming trees; he just wanted to keep moving after that. Until he finds Sethe, that is.But then "she" moves him around the house like a rag doll. By "she," we're pretty sure he means Beloved. Who else has the power to uproot everyone and everything?
Which brings us and him back to the present… Paul D sitting in front of the church thinking all these deep, sad thoughts that don't do anything for him.
What happened to the Plan?, he wonders. How could it all have gone wrong? You know which plan he means—the escape from Sweet Home.
Paul D can't help replaying everything in his mind.It starts with Sixo and how he hears about the group of runaway slaves from his girlfriend, the Thirty-Mile Woman.
A woman was going to wait a night and half a day for them in a field of corn; her sign would be a rattle and she would take them to the caravan of other runaways.Everyone including Sixo's girlfriend was going to go, except the two Pauls who couldn't decide whether to take the risk. Sound familiar? Yeah, you've heard it all before.
But hold on—Paul D supplies us with some new details like how the two Pauls debated whether or not to go get Paul F, who had a different master. Paul F lived with his owner at a place called the "trace."
When the Pauls decide that they're in, Sixo starts planning everything out for them. They're going to leave after spring, once the corn grows tall and can provide cover. They're also leaving at night.
They prepare all the items they need for the trip: food, knives, blankets, a rope, a pot. No shoes, though. They observe schoolteacher and the Garners in order to figure out the white people's habits and schedule.
In the end, they decide that Sixo and the Pauls will leave after supper and wait for Sixo's girlfriend in the creek. Halle, Sethe, and their kids will get there before dawn (just in case Mrs. Garner needs Sethe at night).
"But." That one word is all you need to know about the plan. Not that we don't already know the outcome.
Because Sethe is pregnant, because neighbors keep popping up whenever they feel like it, because Sethe's kids aren't allowed in the kitchen anymore, because Sixo ends up locked in the stock, because Halle is forced to work at Sweet Home rather than get hired out—all of these things make them change the plan little by little.
They still think it's a good plan, but we know better.
The day they hear the sign (it ends up being a song), Halle ends up disappearing. Except for the butter churn, Halle isn't seen again.
Paul D isn't sure what happened to Halle. He comes up with a few possible scenarios, but the point is, no one knows why Halle didn't show.
Then Paul A doesn't show either.
What happens is that schoolteacher has figured out the plan. Paul D and Sixo are caught and tied up.Paul D remembers how they set fire to Sixo: they tie him up but have a hard time making a fire big enough to burn Sixo, so Sixo starts laughing. He only stops to yell out "Seven-o! Seven-o!"
They finally shoot him to shut him up.
As for Paul D, the white men get together and discuss his dollar value.
Paul D remembers this next part so well that he's recalling schoolteacher's exact words and tone.
Schoolteacher is complaining about how Mr. Garner spoiled his slaves by letting the slaves have all the "freedoms" they got. Now he's worried that the plantation is going to get worse because two of the slaves (he uses the N-word) are dead and he can't find Halle. He thinks he can get $900 for Paul D and keep Sethe as well as the rest of her family. Doing so might help turn the plantation around.
The men even discuss the possibility of having schoolteacher marry someone, although schoolteacher is focused on Sweet Home.
Then they take Paul D back to Sweet Home, where they put a three-spoke collar around his neck and shackle his ankles so that he can't lie down.
Sethe finds him this way. She's gotten her children out and has she come back for Halle, who she can't find.
Paul D tells her what he knows: Sixo was killed and he doesn't know anything about Paul A and Halle.
When he looks into Sethe's eyes, he notices that there are no whites—her eyes are completely black. Paul D thinks that the boys must have taken Sethe into the barn soon after.
When she told Mrs. Garner about the rape, the boys took the cowhide and whipped her.
Thinking back, Paul D isn't surprised that schoolteacher hunted Sethe down in Cincinnati.
Since Sethe could reproduce without cost, she could generate more income for schoolteacher. Sick, isn't it?
Anyway, this gets Paul D to think about how much each one of them would have been worth.
More or less than his $900 body?
Then he ponders Sixo's last words: "Seven-O! Seven-O!" Why "Seven-O"? Because his girlfriend the Thirty-Mile Woman, pregnant with Sixo's child, had ended up getting away.
Sixo's laughter hangs on his mind because it was so full of glee it seemed to put out the fire underneath Sixo.
And if you think about it, it is almost like Sixo manages to outsmart the men since they don't know about his girlfriend or her pregnancy.
After all that, Paul D recalls Halle with the butter churn and the rooster who smiled at him as if to say there was worse to come… like Alfred, Georgia.