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In this chapter, Paul D relives his experiences after leaving Sweet Home. He was forced into a chain gang in Georgia as punishment for threatening to kill Brandywine, the man to whom Schoolteacher sold him. Then Paul D is subjected to horribly dehumanizing treatment. Along with 45 other men imprisoned with him, he was awakened by a rifle shot each day. He was then often forced to perform oral sex on a white guard before being sent to the fields to do a difficult dayís work. Since talking to each other was not tolerated, the men sang mournful tunes as they worked and communicated through gestures. The misery continued for eighty- six days, until it began to rain. Since the bad weather continued for days, the jailers locked the men, still chained to each other, in cages down below. From their cages, they heard the water rising and watched the earth turn to mud. They decided that they could dive through the mud and climb under their bars. Successful in their endeavor, they walked away from the prison camp as a group. The men, still bound together, traveled until they came upon a camp of Cherokees, who fed them and helped them to break the chain. As each freed prisoner began to feel stronger, he left the Cherokee camp on his own. Paul D was the last of the prisoners at the camp, for he did not know where to go. Finally, he decided to head north and traveled until he reached Delaware, where he met a female weaver. He stayed with her for eighteen months.
This entire chapter is a flashback of Paul D's life from the time he is tied to a wagon and taken away from Sweet Home to the time he reaches freedom in Delaware. It only reenters the present time of the novel in the last short paragraph, when Paul D's heart is described as a tobacco tin that is rusted shut and filled with all his horrible memories. Paul Dís escape experience contrasts markedly with Setheís flight; he has no where to go once he has his freedom, while Sethe was determined to get to 124 Bluestone to be with her family.
Paul Dís treatment in the Georgia prison camp is horrid and dehumanizing. He is chained to his fellow prisoners, locked in a cell underground, forced to perform oral sex on the brutal prison guards, and made to grueling labor in the fields. The only relief to the misery is the solidarity he feels with the other prisoners. Since they are not allowed to speak to each other, they communicate in songs and gestures. When bad weather turns the earth to mud, they plan their escape together, diving to freedom through the mud. The solidarity of the group emphasizes a central theme of Morrisonís novel: people can best resist oppression if they act in concert with each other.
The welcome the prisoners receive by the Cherokees is significant. Both blacks and native Americans were terribly oppressed by the white man; as a result, the Cherokees understand the needs of the escaped black prisoners and allow them to stay in their camp until they are strong enough to travel. Paul D is the last prisoner to leave the Cherokees. He is reluctant to go, for he has no family to find and no destination in mind. When he departs, he is simply heading North. He winds up in Delaware and meets a female weaver, who takes him in. He stays with her for a year and a half, since he has no place else to go.