While Beloved, Sethe, and Denver play together throughout January, their happiness is short-lived. Sethe loses her job because she is always late. She spends all her time and her savings spoiling Beloved with showy clothes and sweet foods. After she sees Beloved's scar on her throat, they start to ignore Denver. Eventually, the money and the food run out, but neither Sethe nor Beloved notices. Sethe is too busy trying to please Beloved, and Beloved is too busy demanding all of Sethe's attention. Sethe is totally under the control of the younger woman, and they begin to fight regularly. Sethe tries all the time to explain why she chose to kill her daughter, and this makes Beloved more demanding and spoiled. Both women are going crazy.
Only Denver realizes that they must eat, so she leaves the house alone for the first time in many years. In fact, she has only left the house twice at all in the eight years since Baby Suggs's death. However, she goes out to Lady Jones, the woman whose informal school she had attended for a year. Lady Jones takes pity on the young lady, and the women of the area begin to leave food at 124. While some of them still judge Sethe for her choices, the community always stands by one another in need, so they bring food. Denver does not want to take charity for long, so she tries to find work at the Bodwin house. The Bodwins, the brother and sister who had helped Baby Suggs when she first came to Ohio, hire her to come stay at their house at nights.
Before Denver can start her new job, however, the Bodwin's servant tells the women in town all about Beloved, as Denver has explained the problem to her The women gather and go to 124 to try to help Sethe because they do not believe that people's mistakes should be allowed to come back and hurt them. As they approach, Denver is waiting on the porch for Mr. Bodwin to pick her up for her first night of work. Sethe and Beloved, who is pregnant, come out on the porch when they hear all the women in town singing in front of the house. Mr. Bodwin arrives to take Denver, but Sethe, who is half-crazy, just knows there is a white man with a wagon at her house, like the last time a white man came to the house. She rushes to try to kill him with an ice pick, but the women stop her. When they look back, Beloved has disappeared.
Denver has become a part of the world. She actually works and sees people, even as she tries to take care of Sethe, who refuses to get out of bed. Paul D comes back to the house to take care of Sethe, understanding that her actions were not her crime but a result of the crime of slavery. Beloved is gone forever.
Here, it is finally clear just how destructive a single-minded love can be. By blocking out all others and their own physical needs, Sethe and Beloved are destroying themselves. Denver develops maturity. While children love selfishly, maturity teaches her how to love less selfishly, and she goes out to help find a way to help her mother survive.
There are two ways to read why Beloved disappears after the incident with Sethe, the crowd of women, and Mr. Bodwin. It is possible that Beloved disappears because Sethe finally took her violence out on a white man instead of on her own children, which is more appropriate. In attacking Mr. Bodwin instead of her children, she is attacking the powerful instead of the weak, and so the guilt she feels loses its power.
The other way to think about it is that the women of the community are finally there to support Sethe. When she is alone, all she has is the fierce love a mother feels for her children. But, when the entire community is there, they all take on responsibility for what happened, and so Sethe no longer has to feel the guilt that Beloved holds over her.
Each of these interpretations has merit, and in fact, they are probably both correct. Only with the support of the community can Sethe face the power structure of white people who created this awful situation. Their support helps break the hold of the past, and so Sethe is empowered to act differently this time. Of course, she is weakened by the entire experience, left empty because all she has had for so long has been that isolation and guilt. When Paul D comes and says he is going to help her, she has a healthier kind of love to rely on. Even though they went through such awful things together, their relationship is not destructive, instead, it is constructive.