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Chapter 17 and 18

Chapter 17

Stamp Paid is in the yard of the slaughterhouse, where he works. Paul D is there and Stamp Paid shows him a news clipping. The woman resembles Sethe, but Paul D says that it can't be her because it's not her mouth in the picture. Paul D cannot read but he knows that most of the tragedies blacks suffer don't make the newspaper so this must be something horrible and bizarre. Stamp Paid starts to explain the background of the story to soften the blow: the feast, the jealous people, how there was no warning of the four horsemen's arrival. But Paul D shakes his head, that the woman in the picture was not Sethe. So Stamp Paid does not tell the details of how Sethe "flew like a hawk," and brought her children into the shed to saw them. Instead, he simply reads the clipping. Paul D is clearly bothered; he says that it must be a mistake and his eyes are so confident that Stamp Paid almost lets himself believe the lie, that there was no way a "pretty lil slave girl" had recognized Schoolteacher's hat coming down the road and lost her senses.

Chapter 18

Paul D takes Stamp Paid's newspaper clipping and shows it to Sethe, asking her if the story was true. Sethe tries to explain exactly what happened and she feels herself spinning around the room where Paul D is sitting, just as she hears herself rambling. She knows that if Paul D has to ask her "why?" or "how?" he is unable to understand. She tries anyway, telling him how she had saved her children from the horrors of Sweet Home. How she was alone at Sweet Home and didn't know how to be a mother. How she had come to Ohio and foolishly thought that she could love people fully and not have to "love small." When she saw Schoolteacher's hat coming down the road, she thought "Nono. Nonono" and put her babies where they would be "safe." Paul D's reaction is less than favorable and he does not understand her "safety with a handsaw." As he stares at Sethe, incredulous, Paul D understands why Stamp Paid showed him the clipping; it was a warning of what Sethe would do to (and for) the people she loved. Paul D is frightened and tells Sethe that her "love is too thick," and when she replies, he tells her that she has two feet, not four. He immediately regrets this statement and doesn't understand why he said it, really. Later in the evening, near dinnertime, Paul D asks Sethe to put some supper aside for him because he might be a little late getting back home. Sethe says "so long," trying to understand how Paul D can count her feet but is afraid to say "goodbye" because it might hurt her feelings.

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points To Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8 and 9
Chapter 10 and 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14 and 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17 and 18
Chapter 19 and 20
Chapter 21 and 22
Chapter 23 and 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27 and 28



 






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