Days of company: knowing the names of forty, fifty other Negroes, their view, habits; where they had been and what done; of feeling their fun and sorrow along with her own, which made it better.
When Sethe first arrives in Cincinnati, she enjoys twenty-eight days of being a part of the vibrant black community. She finds something she has never known: an extended group of people with whom she can share her worries, fears, and joys. This period represents the only time Sethe has known such easy companionship. While a slave, Sethe experienced friendship and even love, but her community could be destroyed at the whim of the white owners. The Cincinnati community provides safety and stability, thus when her new friends betray her by not warning her about schoolteacher’s approach, she withdraws into isolation.
Some lost direction and their neighbors, feeling the confused pull of the chain, snatched them around. For one lost, all lost. The chain that held them would save all or none, and Hi Man was the Delivery.
While on the chain gang, Paul D and his forty-five fellow inmates work together to free themselves. In this scene, the rains have loosed the mud enough to allow them to escape from their boxes in the ground. On one level, working together is a practical matter: If one man falls, he will start a chain reaction. However, the men all support one another emotionally as well, communicating with their eyes and through their songs, willing one another to endure. By doing this, the men create a social structure that alleviates their own desperation and sense of hopelessness.
When they caught up with each other, all thirty, and arrived at 124, the first thing they saw was not Denver sitting on the steps, but themselves.
The narrator describes the scene in which the neighboring women, having learned of Beloved’s return, come to Sethe’s aid. Even though Sethe has isolated herself for eighteen years, the women understand the injustice of her being punished by her past and want to put a stop to it. Significantly, the ghosts of their former selves at Baby Suggs’ fateful party greet the women. This event serves as the catalyst that divides the inhabitants of 124 from everyone else. The women, who represent the heart of the black community, are coming full circle, signifying that they are ready to welcome Sethe and her family back.
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