Beloved Chapter 9
Sethe feels overwhelmed by the news about Halle, and she misses Baby Suggs' counseling, so she decides to go down to the Clearing, where Baby Suggs used to have her revival meetings. She became a preacher when she arrived in Cincinnati because her heart had remained intact, even though slavery had nearly destroyed the rest of her body. But as great as her heart was, the persecution by whitefolks finally got to her, too. "'Those white things have taken all I had or dreamed,' she said, 'and broke my heartstrings too. There is no bad luck in the world but whitefolks.'" Chapter 9, pg. 89 Those were her final words; after Schoolteacher came to 124 and Sethe killed her daughter, Baby Suggs lost her faith and her will to live.
Sethe takes Denver and Beloved to the Clearing with her; on the way, she remembers the rest of the story of Denver's birth and their escape to Ohio. Sethe remembers that Amy Denver left her on the wrong side of the Ohio River and she found Stamp Paid, an ex-slave and Underground Railroad agent, to take her and Denver across the river. From there, Ella took them to Baby Suggs and 124, reuniting Sethe with her children. Sethe had to explain to her mother-in-law that she'd waited for Halle, but he never showed up, so she left alone.
Sethe remembers the twenty-eight days of freedom, friendship, and support she had after arriving at 124. "Bit by bit, at 124 and in the Clearing, along with others, she had claimed herself. Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another." Chapter 9, pg. 95 She doesn't have that companionship anymore, so she has to lean on the spirit of Baby Suggs for support. While she prays in the Clearing, Sethe feels what she assumes to be Baby Suggs' fingers rubbing her neck -- softly at first and then so violently it starts to strangle her. After she breaks away from the ghost fingers, Beloved rubs Sethe's neck to soothe the bruises. When Beloved reaches up to kiss them, Sethe jerks away; Beloved's breath smells of new milk, just like a baby's breath, and her touch reminds Sethe of the baby ghost's touch.
Walking back to 124, Sethe decides that the fingers choking her belonged to the ghost Paul D scared away from the house. After her time in the Clearing, Sethe convinces herself that if she could handle years alone with the ghost, then she and Paul D can handle the weight of their past together. So when she gets home, with the girls not far behind her, she and Paul D start fooling around, nto noticing Beloved's presence. When Beloved realizes what's happening, she becomes jealous of Sethe spending time with someone besides her.
Beloved walks out of the house and finds Denver outside beside the stream. Beloved tells her that she wants Paul D gone from 124. Denver accuses her of using her powers as the ghost of crawling-already? girl to choke Sethe, but Beloved acknowledges only trying to ease Sethe's pain. Beloved runs away angry at Denver for the accusation, and Denver reflects on the only other companionship of her life before Beloved, and that was Lady Jones' school. Lady Jones was a racially mixed woman, educated at a colored girls' school who taught colored children who couldn't go to school. As a little girl, Denver had gone to Lady Jones' school for a short time and enjoyed learning. She never noticed that her classmates avoided her until another student, Nelson Lord, asked her if her mother had murdered her sister and then taken Denver to jail with her.
That question unlocked the fears Denver had of Sethe and scared her so much that she lost her hearing for two years and stopped going to school. During the time that her hearing was gone, Denver paid close attention to the ghost; it kept her company while she waited for her father to come get her. But the silence of her deafness was broken by the sound of the baby ghost trying to crawl up the stairs of 124. After that, the ghost turned spiteful. Denver attributes the departure of Buglar and Howard to the fear of Sethe trying to harm them again, not to the fear of the ghost. She remembers that after her hearing came back, life at 124 became bleak for everyone. Buglar and Howard were agitated until they left; Baby Suggs gave up on life and waited for death in her bed; and then Paul D showed up and scared away the ghost. His presence ate up all of Sethe's attention, and Denver was left alone until Beloved showed up.
Starved for love, Denver realizes with some shame that even if Beloved were trying to hurt Sethe, Denver would still be devoted to her because Beloved's companionship eased her loneliness. Deciding that whatever Beloved may be, she's at least hers, Denver goes to find Beloved and seek forgiveness.