Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Sethe, a fugitive slave woman. She killed one of her four children eighteen years earlier, when she saw her former owner come to capture them. This happened a month after she escaped to Ohio, where her mother-in-law resided. After the incident, she alienated herself in the community while living with her youngest child in a house occupied by a ghost spirit. the dead daughter, Beloved, returns as a ghost. Sethe enjoys their reunion and responds to all of her demands. When Beloved’s demands increase, she exhausts herself physically and psychologically.
Beloved, a bodily ghost of Sethe’s baby. Having died at the age of two, her throat cut with a handsaw by Sethe, she reappears as a woman of twenty. She calls herself Beloved, the only word carved on her tombstone. She is eager to listen to Sethe’s stories, demands her attention, and accuses Sethe of forsaking her. She disappears with the singing of thirty women in the community.
Denver, Sethe’s youngest child. Denver was born in a river while Sethe was escaping to Ohio as a runaway slave. She was named for a white woman who helped Sethe’s delivery. When Beloved appears, Denver soon recognizes that she is the ghost whom she had seen as a child and welcomes her company. Witnessing her mother’s exhaustion from meeting Beloved’s demands, she asks for help from the community, from which she and Sethe had been...
(The entire section is 482 words.)
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The Characters (Masterplots II: African American Literature, Revised Edition)
The novel takes its name from the character Beloved, a ghost. Beloved was killed by her mother, Sethe, as a baby to keep her from being returned to slavery by her owner, schoolteacher, who has come to Ohio to reclaim his slave property. As a result, the opening lines of the novel state that the house where Sethe, her mother-in-law, Baby Suggs, and her daughter, Denver, live is spiteful and full of a baby’s venom. The frightful atmosphere caused by the antics of the baby ghost causes Beloved’s brothers, Howard and Buglar, to run away by the time they are thirteen.
Subsequently, Beloved walks out of the water a fully dressed woman of twenty, the age the murdered baby would have been if she had lived. The author reveals the character of Beloved through the thoughts, emotions, and reactions of Sethe, Denver, and Paul D (Beloved’s uncle and Sethe’s lover). Sethe is at first flattered by Beloved’s quiet devotion and adoration, which pleases her. Denver is devoted to the care and protection of her ghostly sister, but Paul D is suspicious of Beloved. He notices that she is “shining” and questions her closely concerning her origins. Sethe notices that Beloved vexes Paul D, and he is eventually run out of the house and seduced by Beloved. Moreover, Denver notices “how greedy” Beloved is to hear Sethe talk, and that the questions Beloved asks—such as “where are your diamonds?”—are perplexing since she did not understand how Beloved could know of such things. As a result of her murder, Beloved has a need for retribution, which she seeks by literally using up her mother with her constant and insistent demands for time and nurturing.
(The entire section is 689 words.)