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Paul D thinks of himself as the last of the Sweet Home men, for he is the only survivor amongst the five male slaves. Although Garner encouraged all of them to think independently like men, it was a cruel trick, for all of the black males were emasculated by their role as slaves and by their owners, especially Schoolteacher, who totally ruled over them. He thinks about Sixo trying to prove his manliness. Although his body was being roasted over flames, Sixo refused to cry out.
Paul D realizes he is still not in control of himself. Under Beloved’s influence, he has become a “ragdoll--picked up and put back down anywhere any time by a girl young enough to be his daughter.” His lack of control over himself feels worse than it did when he trembled on the chain gang in Georgia. After surviving his imprisonment and escaping from the woman in Delaware, Paul D had falsely believed he was strong. Now, however, he finds himself at the whim of a young woman. In order to overcome the girl’s hold on him, Paul D decides to tell Sethe what is happening between him and Beloved. He decides to meet her one evening when she is getting off work. Although he feels ashamed to ask a woman to protect him, he will beg Sethe to help him break out of his dependence on Beloved.
Sethe is pleased to see that Paul D has come to meet her. When he tells her she will not like what he has to say, she thinks that he is going to leave her. Instead, he says that he wants her to get pregnant and have his child. Not knowing what to say, she simply laughs. They walk home, flirting with each other. When it begins to snow, Paul D puts Sethe on his back and runs down the road. As they approach home, they see Beloved coming toward them with a shawl for Sethe. Since Beloved has no coat for herself, Sethe wraps the shawl around the girl and hurries her into the house. Paul D is upset that his romantic moments with Sethe have been interrupted. He then sees Denver looking at them through the window and wonders whose ally she is.
Sethe tells Paul D that it is too cold for him to sleep outside and invites him upstairs to her bed where he belongs. In bed that night, Sethe thinks of how she felt when he asked her to have a baby with him. She wonders why he wants a child and decides that she will decline his offer. She feels too guilty about murdering her own daughter. She is also convinced that Beloved is the reincarnation of the child she killed, for she has longed for her to come back.
In this chapter, Paul D explains that he feels his manhood has been compromised by his days of slavery. Although Mr. Garner was a good man who let him and the others have some freedom, he was not truly allowed to be a man. Then when Garner died and Schoolteacher came to run the plantation, there was no freedom and no chance of proving one’s masculinity. Because he never had the chance to truly grow into his manhood, Paul D feels that he is not strong enough to stand up to Beloved and break off their relationship. As a result, he decides to tell Sethe about the affair and ask for her help in ending it.
Paul D goes to the restaurant to meet Sethe as she gets off of work. He fully intends to tell her about the affair with Beloved and beg for her help. Instead of telling her, however, he does something more productive. He firms up his commitment to her by asking her to bear his child. In the end, this commitment will allow him to regain his relationship with Sethe, to cut off ties with Beloved, and to restore his manhood through procreation.
Sethe does not know how to react to Paul D’s request that she bear his child. Her immediate response is to laugh. When she thinks about the request later in bed, she wonders why Paul D even wants to have a child. She also decides, out of guilt for her dead daughter, that she will decline his offer. She is still too preoccupied with the past to make a commitment for the future.