Part Two, Chapter 23
All four voices mix for this final chapter in the sequence. Beloved reiterates her need to "join," to be one with Seth. Sethe took her face away, Beloved believes, and Beloved refuses to lose that face again. The voices speak to each other, Sethe and Beloved, Beloved and Denver, and then the three together. Sethe asks Beloved for forgiveness, but Beloved avoids the question. Denver warns Beloved that Sethe is dangerous. Beloved insist on her complete connection to Sethe, saying that they are laugh and laughter, and that she wants Sethe's face. Again and again, we hear the words of one woman claiming another for herself. By the end of the chapter, it is unclear who is speaking, and we close with three repetitions: "You are mine/You are mine/You are mine."
Beginning with a fair amount of coherence and becoming less clear as the voices become less distinct, this chapter is haunting and ominous. It ends with a loss of identity, as the reader can no longer tell who is saying what. The claims to ownership are strong, with Beloved making the most insistent claims of all as she refuses to distinguish between herself and her mother. Note also that she does not forgive her mother for the murder.
Part Two, Chapter 24
Sitting on the church porch steps, Paul D drinks and feels that his tobacco tin has been pried open, leaving him vulnerable. He wonders if he should have lost his mind back when Sixo did, if it was going to come to this moment anyway. He remembers his family, and for the first time we hear that Paul A and Paul F were his brothers. He cannot remember his mother and never met his father.
Sweet Home was as good a life as a slave could have while Mr. Garner was alive, although Paul D vividly remembers when one of his brothers was sold and separated from him. No one believed the bad stories Baby Suggs, Halle, and Sixo told about other slave-holding estates. All depended on Garner; after his death, the precariousness of their position became clear. He continues to think obsessively about Garner's proclamations that his slaves were all men: "Was he naming what he saw or creating what he did not?"
Paul D recalls the plan they had made to escape on the Underground Railroad. The plan was made months in advance, but had to be altered because Sethe became pregnant. More and more complications arose, until the final run was a disaster. Halle and Paul A were nowhere to be found. Sixo and the Thirty-Mile woman showed up, but all three of them were pursued. Sixo and Paul D were captured by a large group of men with guns, including schoolteacher. Sixo would not stop singing, until schoolteacher decided he would never be acceptable as a slave again. They tried to burn Sixo alive, but the fire was not fast enough, and Sixo would not stop singing or laughing and shouting. It was the only time Paul D ever heard him laugh. The men shot him to silence him. The white men talked to each other about schoolteacher's problems at Sweet Home, and Paul D learned his price for the first time: $900.
Back at Sweet Home, in chains, Paul D had a final conversation with Sethe. When he saw her eyes, they were all black, like iron, without any whites left in them. He was ashamed to be there, chained in front of her. She told him that she was going to run, and because she was a woman and pregnant Paul D never expected to see her alive again.
Paul D cannot separate his strategy for closing off his heart and survival. Now that he cannot stop himself from feeling, he wonders if he should have died with Sixo; Paul D believes that to allow himself to have feelings will destroy him.
The description of their plans and failed escape are narrated in the present tense to give the memory a vividness, to show how powerful and present the run for freedom is for Paul D's mind still. He never saw his brother again, he lost Sixo, and his fortunes turned for the worse.
Paul D, Paul A, and Paul F were brothers, but their shared name emphasizes the loss of self under slavery. All the boys were interchangeable pieces rather than individual human beings. They were differentiated by letter, like exhibits in a courtroom or identical items on a list. After his capture, Paul D heard schoolteacher name his price. For the first time, he knew his worth as a piece of property. He began to ask himself how much each of them cost, marveling that the members of the only family he'd known had prices attached to each of them. Sethe, he realizes, was a valuable item, because she was property that could reproduce itself. The fact that he still finds himself thinking along these lines shows that Paul D is still unable to lay claim to himself. His fear about his manhood and its source also shows that fear. He is not sure if he was ever really a man, or if he only acted like one because Garner taught him how. Twenty-five years after Sweet Home, he feels uncertain about his masculinity and is unsure of his own worth as a human being.
Part Two, Chapter 25
Stamp Paid visits Paul D to try and make him reconsider his decision to leave Sethe. He tells Paul D the story of his name: when he was a young man, his wife was taken in by their master's son. For a year, Stamp (his name was Joshua then) did not touch his own wife. When she finally came back, his reaction was not joy but misdirected rage. He had a fantasy of breaking her neck. To help him deal with his rage, he changed his name, figuring that all debts had been paid during that year.
He defends Sethe's actions. Paul D tells Stamp that he is frightened of Sethe, but even more frightened of Beloved. Stamp is curious about where Beloved came from; he suspects, as Sethe once did, that she might have been locked up by a white man and used sexually until she escaped.
Stamp, like Baby Suggs, rejected the name on the bill of sale. Baby Suggs took the name used by her loved ones; she wanted to keep her identity tied to her relationships with other blacks, rather than to the papers that were part of her status as a slave. Rather than take a new name that had its origin in the speech of loved ones, Stamp took his name from something he lived through. His name also refers to his role as a messenger and envoy for the Underground Railroad-he was the "stamp paid," the thing that guaranteed that the thing being sent (the people escaping through the Railroad) would make it to the destination. His name is a badge of honor; like Sethe's scars, it is a sign of what he has been through and survived, and defies schoolteacher's command that definitions stay in the hand of the white definers. By rejecting names given to them by whites, Baby Suggs and Stamp Paid make themselves the definers.