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She tried to kill them in order to save them from being dragged back to Sweet Home and subjected to the horrors of slavery. Sethe's love for her children ran so deep, that she would have rather seen them dead than be forced to watch them suffer and endure what Sethe herself went through. As she later explains to Paul D, "I would rather know they're at peace in Heaven than living a hell here on Earth!" However, she only succeeded in killing Beloved, and the rest of her children survived her assaults.
Although Sethe didn't know it at the time, Halle was hiding in the loft of the barn and was forced to witness his wife being defiled and attacked by Schoolteacher and his boys. The sight was so traumatic it caused him to become insane. The last Paul D saw of Halle was while he was being sold, and recalls watching him smear butter all over his face in a daze. Paul D tells Sethe this and she is devastated by the revelation.
Because of Paul D's presence. Every time Sethe was given a clue as to Beloved's identity, she was too preoccupied with Paul D to fully realize the intent of Beloved's knowledge about her. Later, after Paul D leaves, Sethe realizes that she knew who Beloved really was all along.
She was tired of being ignored and socially outcast from the rest of the world, and seeing Paul D and her mother together only reminded her that she had no one else in the world that belonged to her. After Sethe attempted to murder her children and her daughter's ghost inhabited the house, no one ever visited 124 again. Later, when her brothers, Howard and Buglar, ran away, she remained in the house for more than seven years, never even venturing out of her own front yard.
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