Beloved: Novel Summary: Section II Chapters 1
Stamp Paid feels sorry for telling Paul D about Sethe killing her child, so he tries to visit the women of 124, even though he has not been there for many years. However, he cannot bring himself to knock at the door, as he had always been welcomed without knocking years ago when Baby Suggs was alive. Finally, one day he does knock and no one comes to the door. He looks in the window and sees two backs, Denver's and a young woman he does not recognize.
Meanwhile, Sethe, Denver, and Beloved go ice skating. They are forming a close bond that does not require anyone else. When Beloved sings a song Sethe used to sing for her babies, Sethe comes to realize that Beloved is the child she had killed. She is elated that her daughter has come back to her, so she doesn't even notice men's footprints in the snow outside her house. She believes that her sons will also return, that she is forgiven by her children, and that she has all she needs in her house.
Sethe remembers how, at Sweet Home, schoolteacher used to measure body parts on the slaves with string. They all thought it was silly until she overheard schoolteacher teaching his nephews to chart her "animal" and "human" characteristics, which they could figure out from her measurements. She didn't tell anyone, but when schoolteacher beat Paul A, the Sweet Home slaves began planning their escape. However, Sethe was far along in her pregnancy with Denver, so they had to change the plan a little bit, and that was how they ended up having so much trouble escaping.
The women of 124 have created a self-contained world of love. But, their obsession with one another to the exclusion of all others is not healthy. When they go ice skating and fall down, the text repeats several times "Nobody saw them falling." They have no community to support them, and the community is extremely important. Slaves had to help one another as a community without just thinking about their individual family lives, because they could only rely on the larger community to help survive. This was the case when all the men chained together escaped the flooded cells, and when the community was not there for Sethe, schoolteacher and the sheriff were able to sneak up on her. So, being a family without the support of the larger community is very dangerous.
Schoolteacher measuring the slaves is significant because he turned them into animals simply by assuming they were animals to be measured. When he had his nephews write down their "animal" characteristics, it was without realizing that he, in fact, was turning them into animals by treating them as such. When they escape, they are fleeing as human beings to avoid being turned into animals, but when Sethe kills her child, she is responding as an animal might to a threat.
Stamp Paid thinks about how white people seem to expect them to act like "under every dark skin was a jungle," but "it wasn't the jungle blacks brought with them to this place from the other (livable) place. It was the jungle whitefolks planted in them" (208). Everyone has the capacity to be civilized, and it is the cruelty of others that turns people uncivilized.