Study Guide

Beloved Chapter 3

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Chapter 3

  • Before we hear more about Paul D and Sethe, Denver takes us back to the time before Paul D arrives at 124 and after her brothers have left the house.
  • She wants to point out that she has secrets and that they're sweet.
  • They probably seem sweet because one of her secrets is the fact that she stole cologne from her mother—a gift her mother received from a charitable "whitewoman" for Christmas during "one of the War years." (We're thinking Denver means the Civil War.) Denver got a bottle of perfume too, but she used hers up faster than Sethe.
  • Denver's other secret is her playhouse—an opening inside five boxwood bushes where she goes to imagine things.
  • Her secret place is good because, everywhere else, her loneliness almost kills her.
  • One autumn day, Denver crawls out of her secret place and notices the snow, which reminds her of what her mother told her about Denver's birth (it was snowing the same way that day, too).
  • Denver's birth has something to do with a "whitegirl" straddling her in a canoe—the "whitegirl" after whom she's named. More on that later.
  • First, Denver heads back to the house and, as she gets closer, she seems something pretty strange.
  • Her mother is kneeling with her back to the window.That's normal enough, but what's strange is that there's a white dress kneeling next to her.
  • A white dress. But nobody in it. (Insert spooky music here.)
  • Denver's not too spooked though. She's sure that it's the dress of the white girl who helped deliver her.
  • As she walks, Denver remembers the story.
  • Sethe's told Denver how she was sure that Denver was going to die in Sethe, and how Sethe was going to die along with her.
  • Flashback to the time when Sethe was running away: she's on the wrong side of the Ohio River.
  • The bloody side.
  • See, the Ohio River was the dividing line between the slave and free states.
  • Sethe's lying on the Kentucky side, too tired to move.
  • All of a sudden, a ragged white girl appears.Her name is Amy. She's heading to Boston to buy velvet. She'd seen it in a magazine, and now she wants some because, supposedly, Boston's got the best velvet. (Who knew? We thought it was just lobsters and academics.)
  • If you can't tell already, Amy's a bit off, but she's nice and soothing, especially to the little fetus inside of Sethe that Sethe's been calling a kicking, bucking antelope.
  • Plus, she offers to help Sethe, whose legs are completely swollen from being pregnant and on the run.
  • Amy makes Sethe crawl to a hut that she sees nearby, picks up Sethe's feet and begins to massage them.
  • It hurts like hell, but Amy reminds Sethe that all the pain is a sign that she's alive.
  • Okay, back to the present: when Denver gets to the house, she tells Sethe about the white dress. (By the way, if you haven't noticed, that whole story of how Denver came into the world and got named after the white girl—it's not making much sense since the white girl was named Amy. Strange right?)
  • She also asks Sethe what she was praying about.Sethe says she wasn't praying—just talking.
  • Confused, Denver asks why.
  • Sethe tells Denver that she was thinking about time. It seems to Sethe that time passes, but some things just never go away.
  • Denver asks Sethe to tell her everything about her birth.Sethe reminds Denver that she's heard everything before. Everything except schoolteacher, that is.
  • Schoolteacher (that's what they called him) came to Sweet Home after Mr. Garner died, because Mrs. Garner didn't think it was a good idea to be a single white woman living on a plantation surrounded by black slaves.
  • Schoolteacher asked all of the Sweet Home men all sorts of questions and wrote the answers down in a little notebook that he later turned into a book.
  • Suddenly, Sethe stops talking.
  • Something about the memory has shaken her up.
  • So Denver jumps in and says she thinks that the baby has "plans" for them.
  • Plans? That sounds menacing…
  • Whatever the plans were, though, Paul D has messed them up.
  • All of a sudden, he brings life into the house: he sings loud songs and even gets Sethe to think about the present, not the past.
  • Sethe starts to see color again. Before Paul D, all the color Sethe can remember seeing is the pink of her dead baby girl's grave and the bloody red of the dead baby.
  • Paul D has terrible memories, too. Memories like being locked in a box that resembles a coffin.
  • Somehow though, now that he's with Sethe, things seem to be getting better.
  • Paul D gets a job working on the river.
  • As he tells Sethe, he's pretty sure that things are good here. Except perhaps for Denver. He can tell that she's not happy.
  • In fact, she seems to be waiting for something.
  • Sethe brushes Paul D off. As far as she's concerned, Denver is a charmed child.
  • After all, Denver brought the white girl to Sethe so that the white girl could save them.
  • In fact, Denver was so lucky that even when schoolteacher found them in the hut—Wait, Paul D says. He can't believe schoolteacher found Sethe and Sethe tells him that, yep, schoolteacher found them and even sent Sethe to jail since Sethe refused to return to Sweet Home.
  • Paul D never does get to hear the rest of Sethe's story about Denver (seems to be a pattern here) since he's too disturbed about his memories of being in jail.
  • He decides to go do something else like get some nails, so Sethe tells him to go to town.
  • For now, things seem to be shaping up at 124. Sethe's starting to get comfortable with Paul D.
  • She's even thinking about a future with the guy.
  • But it's only Chapter Three. Things won't be comfortable for long…

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