Page 257-258: It was a tiny church no bigger than a rich man's parlor. The pews had no backs, and since the congregation was also the choir, it didn't need a stall. Certain members had been assigned the construction of a platform to raise the preacher a few inches above his congregation, but it was a less than urgent task, since the major elevation, a white oak cross, had already taken place. Before it was the Church of the Holy Redeemer, it was a dry-goods shop that had no use for side windows, just front ones for display. These were papered over while members considered whether to paint or curtain them--how to have privacy without losing the little light that might want to shine on them. In the summer the doors were left open for ventilation. In winter an iron stove in the aisle did what it could. At the front of the church was a sturdy porch where customers used to sit, and children laughed at the boy who got his head stuck between the railings. On a sunny and windless day in January, it was actually warmer out there than inside if the iron stove was cold. The damp cellar was fairly warm, but there was no light lighting the pallet or the washbasin or the nail from which a man's clothes could be hung. And an oil lamp in a cellar was sad, so Paul D sat on the porch steps and got additional warmth from a bottle of liquor jammed in his coat pocket. Warmth and red eyes. He held his wrist between his knees, not to keep his hands still but because he had nothing else to hold on to. His tobacco tin, blown open, spilled contents that floated freely and made him their play and prey.
I have chosen this passage from Beloved in which Toni Morrison details the run-down church where Paul D sits filled with internal turmoil as it offers two directions of analysis, the state of the church and the state of Paul D. The church is unlike traditional churches as it’s “congregation was also the choir” and the “pews had no backs”, characterizing the church as being scrapped together. Furthermore, the church was formerly a dry goods store portraying the idea that it wasn’t intended to be a church, aided by the lack of light in the cellar not allowing the hanging of clothes, the warmer atmosphere outside than inside, and the laughter at the expense of a struggling boy at the church. The idea that this place where Paul D has come to wither away is not much of a church suggests that God is not present there to protect those trapped in this place with slavery being prevalent throughout its history.
Paul D holds his tobacco tin, a symbol of his trials and tribulations within slavery is open, displaying Paul D’s inability to suppress the pain of his enslavement and is engulfed by the wave of memories that he has of his time in chains. The church embracing his sadness with him not using the “sad” warm cellar and instead opting for the warmth from his comforting liquor. Paul D sits like a slave, chained together by his past experiences of horrendous acts and abominations.