Paul D describes his heart as a “tin tobacco box.” After his traumatizing experiences at Sweet Home and, especially, at the prison camp in Alfred, Georgia, he locks away his feelings and memories in this “box,” which has, by the time Paul D arrives at 124, “rusted” over completely. By alienating himself from his emotions, Paul D hopes to preserve himself from further psychological damage. In order to secure this protection, however, Paul D sacrifices much of his humanity by foregoing feeling and gives up much of his selfhood by repressing his memories. Although Paul D is convinced that nothing can pry the lid of his box open, his strange, dreamlike sexual encounter with Beloved—perhaps a symbol of an encounter with his past—causes the box to burst and his heart once again to glow red.
For weeks, president-elect Lincoln said nothing as state after state renounced its compact with the United States, though it is questionable whether anything he said would have halted the secession movement. Previous presidents under whom secession was threatened—Andrew Jackson and Zachary Taylor—had both said they would send troops to force states to remain in the Union but never had to take that action. Lincoln, faced with the reality of losing a section of the country, felt he did have to after Confederate guns fired during the Battle of Fort Sumter , South Carolina, on April 12, 1861.
A critical and underestimated part of the deep societal racism that lives on beneath the “post-racial” American surface—behind the selection of a black Supreme Court justice or the election of a black president or the removal of the Confederate flag or a Confederate war statue in a Southern city—is the steadfast refusal of our longtime white-majority nation to acknowledge that the multi-century history of slavery (the vicious racist and torture system the Confederacy fought to defend and preserve) is intimately related to the nation’s stark racial disparities today.