Beloved Analysis of Part 3 (Chapters 5 - 7)
Beloved's emergence from the water is eerily reminiscent of the slaves' emergence from the ships in the New World. The difficulty she has walking and her troubled breathing mirror the crowded and polluted conditions of the ship's cellars. These deathly images are juxtaposed by ones of life: Beloved's skin is new, as if she were just born. Her voice is harsh, as if it had never been used before. Her interest in sweets is like a baby's. A further clue to her past is given by Sethe's reaction to seeing her. Sethe's need to unleash a "flood" from her bladder is a birthing image, as if she is giving birth to this girl all over again. These hints, and the timely arrival of Beloved, point to the possibility that Beloved is an incarnation of the ghost of 124.
The patience that possesses Denver when attending Beloved is a direct result of Denver's finally being able to interact with someone else. Her unselfishness in this regard is a sign that she is steadily maturing. Her possessiveness of Beloved, though, betrays an underlying immaturity.
Beloved brings back many memories, especially those with regards to the horrors of slavery. The "mark" which was on Sethe's mother was a mark of possession, branding a slave. Paul D reveals for the first time his 18-year struggle, his endless running and hiding. Slavery, to him, is worse than being an animal: "Mister [a rooster] was allowed to be and stay where he was. But I wasn't." We learn of the cruelty of schoolteacher's two nephews, who sucked on Sethe's milk as if she were an animal. Similarly, Paul D tells of a metal bit he had in his mouth which prevented him from talking, and hints at the pain which he had to endure to rip it out of his mouth.
Juxtaposed with the image of the metal bit is the image of Paul D's heart as a tobacco tin. Perhaps his problem is not so much with his mind and dealing with the past, but with his heart and dealing with himself. Like the bit which held back his tongue, there is a tin holding back his heart and preventing him from loving or being a free man.
It is worth pointing out that at this point in the novel, Sethe is still battling the past. The kneading of the bread and folding of the cloth suggest that she is still reluctant to confront the past, and is instead avoiding it by keeping her hands moving.