Sethe's state when fleeing the slavery of Sweet Home was one of devastation. "Nothing of Sethe's was intact by the time they reached it except for the cloth that covered her hair. Below her bloody knees, there was no feeling at all; her chest was two cushions of pain" (34). This was a major time of need in Sethe's life, for if she were without aid she surely would have died. Luckily for Sethe, Amy showed up at the right time.
Amy, a white woman who was fleeing slavery herself, aided Sethe in her time of need. She comforted her and gave her support both physically and mentally by urging Sethe not to stop running, to go on by thinking of her child, and by massaging Sethe's swollen and aching feet. When Sethe needed to cross the river which was blocking her escape an opportunity arose; Stamp Paid was there to help her onto his boat and ferry her across the river. Stamp Paid was a helping figure in the novel. He was known for helping any black person in need no matter what the circumstances were. "Since when a black man come to town have to sleep in a cellar like a dog" (186) Stamp Paid says, when Ella reveals to him that Paul D is sleeping in the basement of the church.
Stamp Paid would not stand for it he could not believe nobody offered Paul D a place to stay. When Paul D walked into Sethe's life both Sethe and Paul D did not expect the hardships the other had to overcome. Sethe experienced a painful life filled with upsets and havoc and Paul D braved a life of hard work. Regardless, when Sethe needed someone to fall back on and to talk to when times were too out of hand Paul D was there for her with his arms extended.
"Stop! Stop!" She [Sethe] said. "I don't have the legs for this."Then give em to me," he said and before she knew it he had backed into her, hoisted her on his back and was running down the road past brown fields turning white" (130). Sethe also ha an emotional void that needed to be filled. Sethe needed to love and have a partner in life again.
Therefore, when Paul D entered her life she accepted him without question. "She [Sethe] knew Paul D added something to her life-something she wanted to count on but was scared to" (95). On the other hand Paul D couldn't rely on Sethe when he was in need. Paul D was incarcerated and ordered to serve out his sentence on a chain gang. Instead of having Sethe to help him Paul D relied on the other members of the chain gang.
They helped each other mentally, as well as physically, through every trail and tribulation they encountered. These prisoners had unlimited trust for another: " they trusted the rain and the dark, yes, but mostly Hi Man and each other" (110). The minute things like singing together to pass the time that was eating at them meant a lot and helped them cope with the position they were in. Moreover, The prisoners on the chain gang helped each other escape the holes in the ground, which they were imprisoned in, and most of all escape death. Again when the chain gang were escaping the jail and were in desperate need of help the Cherokees were there to lend a hand, break the chain that bound the convicts together and house the fugitives. Need and support is the basis and primary theme in the Beloved.
Whether it was Sethe being helped by Paul D or Paul D's escape from prison with the chain gang, the relationship of need and support or assistance is apparent in throughout Beloved.