In light of Beloved's appearance at the start of Chapter 5, what is the thematic significance of the carnival scene that immediately proceeds it?
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At the carnival, we see the extent of isolation usually experienced by Denver and Sethe. The townspeople fear the haunted house, and they have not forgotten the circumstances of the child's death. But Paul D gives Sethe and Denver a link to the rest of the black community. In the figures of the shadows holding hands, Sethe sees a symbol of a future the three of them could have together. For once, Sethe is thinking of the future, and the shadows stand as mirror opposites of the ghost baby: rather than phantoms of the past, they are auguries of the future. These hopes will be challenged by the arrival of Beloved in the next chapter.