• Study Guide

Part One: Chapters 2–3

Summary Part One: Chapters 2–3

In contrast, Denver will not flee the past, because she ardently desires a history. This is evident in her obsessive need to reconstruct the events of her birth in as much detail as possible. She longs for the sense of self that history provides. Similarly, her isolation from the rest of the black community impedes the formation of her identity.

Denver’s attachment to her “emerald closet” is part of the novel’s broader symbolic network of trees and tree images. For Denver, trees provide comfort and shelter. Elsewhere, the ability of trees to function as centers of solace and peace is complicated by the way white men have perverted their natural function. Schoolteacher’s men bind, burn, and shoot Sixo near the trees that he and Paul D found trusting and inviting. And while trees bear the blossoms that lead Paul D to freedom in Chapter 10, they also bear the lynching victims that haunt Sethe’s memory. Paul D regards Sethe’s scar--tissue “tree” with bitter irony. Since white men have reimagined trees as sites of brutality, thinks Paul D, Sethe cannot mask the ugliness and brutality of her wounds by seeing her scars as a tree.