Part One, Chapter 13
Paul D wonders about his masculinity. Mr. Garner prided himself on having slaves who were men, and Paul D believed him, but now he wonders about the value of masculinity bestowed on him by a white master. Once Garner died, after all, that masculinity proved terrifyingly easy to take away. And now, he finds himself unable to beat Beloved. He begins to wonder if she is more than just a girl.
He resolves to tell Sethe, but cannot, and instead asks if Sethe will have his child. He is growing to love Sethe more and more, but Sethe gives an ambiguous response. Later that night she tells him that he won't be sleeping outside anymore, but should come upstairs where he belongs. He is grateful to her, only the second time in his life he has been grateful to a woman. The first was in Delaware, when the weaver woman gave the half-starved fugitive Paul D some sausage.
Sethe does not want to have Paul D's baby, but she is happy to have him home. She is beginning to understand Beloved's identity, although it is not yet totally clear to her.
Paul D's anxiety's about his own masculinity point to the shortcomings of even Mr. Garner's "enlightened" slavery. Although his treatment of his slaves was good, the slave's dignity still had its origin in an outside source and was therefore meaningless.
Sethe does not want to have Paul D's baby, but she is happy for his presence and for the two girls. She still dreams that one day Howard and Buglar will come back, revealing a mindset that considers the future, but only in a way that refuses to let go of the past. Her assertion that Paul D will now start sleeping inside shows her ability to take command of a situation. She resolves the tension of Paul D sleeping outside, and by her words she breaks Beloved's spell of expulsion-although not necessarily Beloved's strange hold on Paul D. This simple decision shows Sethe's strength and the limits of the ghost's power.
Part One, Chapter 14
Beloved is infuriated by Paul D's return into the house, but Denver defends him, saying that he is there because Sethe wants him there.
Beloved fears that her body might fall apart, knowing that it could happen at any moment. Holding herself together takes great effort, and she fears waking up to find herself in pieces. She loses a wisdom tooth and is afraid that the process is beginning, but Denver assures her that it's normal. Beloved tells her it hurts and Denver asks why she doesn't cry. So she does, as if the idea had never occurred to her before.
Denver's defense of Paul D shows some sign of independence, as well as consideration of her mother's feelings and desires.
Beloved's fears about falling apart hint that her presence in the world of the living is a great effort, and Paul D's return to the house shows the limits of her powers. But the emergence and loss of her wisdom tooth, despite her fears, actually shows the strength and possible permanence of her flesh in the world. Her body is growing, changing, going through the stages of growing up. When she learns how to cry, we see how like and unlike a baby she is: all experiences are new for her and she has to learn them like an infant does, but some of those experiences (like crying) are things that should come instinctively to a human.
Part One, Chapter 15
After Sethe's arrival at 124, Stamp Paid got two buckets full of blackberries and brought them to Baby Suggs. With that as the beginning, a giant feast came about spontaneously, a celebration for all of the black people in town. Afterwards, the other blacks in town actually resented Baby Suggs, feeling that her generosity was a sign of pride. They began to resent her preaching and her fortune at having so many members of her family with her.
Baby Suggs originally allowed Halle to buy her freedom only because it had seemed to mean so much to him. She was convinced that she was too old to really need freedom, but as she was driven north by Mr. Garner she suddenly was intoxicated by the knowledge that she was free, noticing her hands and realizing that they were her own, and feeling her heartbeat-noticing it, in a way, for the first time. Baby Suggs then asked Mr. Garner why he and his wife always called her Jenny. He revealed that "Jenny Whitlow" was her legal name, the one on her bill of sale. Baby Suggs told him that Suggs was her husband's name, and she was always called Baby, and that no one ever called her Jenny.
Baby Suggs's first stop was at the Bodwins', a brother and sister who were abolitionists. Janey, their black servant, gave Baby Suggs water to drink and told her that her family all lived in the area. The idea was wondrous to Baby Suggs, who thought then and there that she might be able to find the scattered bits of her own family (after two years of fruitless attempts and letters, Baby Suggs gave up). She met the Bodwins, generous white people who let her stay at 124 and voiced their disapproval of slavery. Mr. Garner spoke up, reminding them that he allowed Halle to buy Baby Suggs's freedom, but she thought silently that her son would be working off that debt for years to come.
After the feast celebrating Sethe's arrival and the arrival of Baby Suggs's grandkids, Baby Suggs could smell the disapproval of the community in the air, and she had a vague premonition of the disaster that was coming.
The novel powerfully conveys the feeling of suddenly owning oneself, of having been a slave and then being free. Baby Suggs did not realize until she was free how freedom would change her, make her body her own. Nor did Mr. Garner. When Baby Suggs laughed and told him that she could feel her heart beating, he thought that she meant her heart was pounding out of nervousness. In fact, she meant she felt like she could hear her heart beating for the first time. Mr. Garner's expectation that Baby Suggs should be grateful was met by her silent thoughts about how her son remained in captivity, showing the great divide between their perspectives, even though Garner considers himself enlightened.
Baby Suggs's inquiries about her own name and her search for her family reveal the absence of self-knowledge and self-recognition under slavery. The absence of a name, which will appear again in the next chapter, signifies a denial of her humanity; her old master never called her by any name at all. Baby Suggs refused to go by her newly discovered name, keeping instead the name her husband gave her, the name she has been called by other blacks for all of her life. The decision shows the importance of relationships to identity, as does her search for her family.
The community's envy of Baby Suggs shows the ex-slaves' anxieties. They were not ready to celebrate life and became resentful of her generosity. They felt, wrongly, that Baby Suggs was flaunting her good fortune at having brought in so much of her family. Their hatred of what they consider to be pride manifests itself again with Sethe, who stands alone and does not go to the community for anything.
Part One, Chapter 16
Twenty-eight days after Sethe arrived at 124, schoolteacher, one of his nephews, the slavecatcher, and the sheriff ("the four horsemen") came to reclaim Sethe and her children. Sethe, on seeing them, ran into the shed and killed the crawling baby girl's throat. She tried to kill Howard, Buglar, and Denver, but did not succeed. Howard and Buglar she only managed to wound, and Denver she attempted to throw against a wall. Stamp Paid leapt in and saved Denver's life. Schoolteacher saw then that she would never be a good slave again: "you just can't mishandle creatures and expect success." The sheriff told the other three white men to leave, saying that it was now his business.
Baby Suggs moved in and tried to take control of the situation. She told Sethe to nurse Denver, but became infuriated when Sethe absent-mindedly brought Denver to her chest without cleaning away the dead baby's blood. They fought over the child, Baby Suggs finally slipping on a puddle of blood. Denver drank her sister's blood along with her mother's milk. Then Denver and Sethe were carried into town in the sheriff's wagon, a crowd of blacks looking on disapprovingly at Sethe's straight back and unashamed eyes.
The first part of the chapter, although in the third person, is from the perspective of schoolteacher and his nephew. After that, the perspective shifts back to that of the blacks. The use of both perspectives shows powerfully how schoolteacher dehumanizes blacks: all of them are nameless "niggers" differentiated by what they wear. When the perspective shifts back to the main characters and we realize that the "nigger with the flower in her hat" is Baby Suggs, the refusal of schoolteacher to recognize black humanity becomes even more clear. We know Baby Suggs as a human being, but in the eyes of the schoolteacher all of the blacks are different specimens of animal. He is unnerved by the gaze of their eyes and has to leave-discomfited by that simple confrontation with their humanity.
"The four horseman" refers to the Four Horsemen (Famine, War, Pestilence, Death) of the Apocalypse, as described in the Bible. Their arrival signifies the end of the world, just as schoolteacher, his nephew, the slavecatcher, and the sheriff end the twenty-eight days of happiness Sethe has enjoyed.