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Beloved has a strong effect on Paul D. He knows something is wrong with her, but he cannot really sense what it is. In subsequent chapters, Paul D has different encounters with this re-incarnated being from Setheís past. At the present, however, he just wishes that Beloved would disappear, for he feels she is a disruption to the peaceful existence he had found with Sethe. Beloved does not care for Paul D either; she knows that he is a threat to her intimacy with Sethe.
When Paul D questions Beloved about why she came to 124 Bluestone, she tells him that a woman at the bridge told her to come. The bridge and the water below it are significant symbols. They symbolize the crossing from and washing away of the spirit world, where Beloved had existed since her death. The fact that Setheís home used to be a way station is also significant. In the past, a way station was a haven for the freed slaves; it was a safe resting place where they could stop for food, mail, messages, and conversation. Now Beloved, a reincarnated spirit, comes to the way station to seek a resting place after returning from the afterlife. Both the freed slaves and Beloved are wandering souls needing a home.
The timing of Belovedís arrival at 124 Bluestone is very significant, for she appeared on the day that Sethe had gone to the carnival with Paul D and Denver. It was the first time that Sethe had been out socially in years. As she walked with Paul D and her daughter, Sethe envisioned a future for the three of them as a family. Beloved had to feel threatened by Setheís thoughts of pursuing a new lifestyle. After all, Paul D had chased away her infant ghost from the house shortly after his arrival. Now Sethe was thinking about spending the rest of her life with him. Beloved felt she had to appear in the flesh to try and drive Paul D away and save Sethe for herself.
As in previous chapters, the thoughts of Paul D and Sethe drift to the past. Paul D reflects on his own years of wandering after he escaped from Sweet Home. He encountered all types of African Americans, most of whom were lost souls after being emancipated. There were many who were so hungry and tired that they could not function. Others he found sleeping in trees or hiding in caves. His description of the freed slaves clearly brings to light the horror and misery that blacks had to endure.
When Paul D tells Sethe that in all his years he has never mistreated a woman, she comments he is probably the only such man, for even Halle mistreated her by deserting her and the children. She tells Paul D how he failed to show up as planned on the day of the escape from Sweet Home. Her criticism causes Paul D to tell Sethe what really happened on that day. Halle was hiding in the loft of the barn when the nephews of Schoolteacher attacked her. Watching the entire brutal incident and feeling helpless to do anything about it, Halle is literally driven crazy. The last time Paul D saw him, Halle had smeared butter from the churn all over his face. At first Sethe is angry to hear that Halle saw what happened to her and did not come to her rescue. When she thinks more about it, however, she reacts by saying it might have been nice if she and Halle could have gone insane together. It is clear that Sethe still misses her husband, whom she now believes is dead.
The chapter ends on a tender note. After telling Sethe about the bit that was placed in his mouth and the torment caused by the rooster, Paul D reveals that he has responded to the traumas of his past by shutting down his emotions. He even imagines that he does not have a heart any longer. Sethe, when she hears his pain, is touched and gently rubs his knee with tenderness. It is clear that both of them need healing from the scars of their pasts.