At a Glance
- Sethe, a former slave who attempts to kill her children to prevent them being taken back into slavery. She's haunted by the death of her third child.
- Denver, Sethe's fourth child and only surviving daughter.
- Baby Suggs, Sethe's mother-in-law, a spiritual leader in her town. Her son Halle bought her freedom when she was 60.
- Halle, Sethe's husband, who goes insane after witnessing an attack on Sethe.
- Beloved, a mysterious woman whom Sethe believes to be the spirit of her murdered child.
- Paul D., Sethe's friend.
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 isolated since Sethe’s murder of her child. Eventually, she is offered a job working for a white family.
Paul D, a former slave. He comes to Cincinnati to look for Sethe and her mother-in-law, Baby Suggs, after eighteen years of absence. He used to belong to the plantation where Sethe was enslaved. the last time he had seen Sethe was during a failed escape attempt. After his sale to a new plantation, he was moved to a camp, joined the army, stayed with a woman, and continued his journey north. Upon their reunion, Paul D and Sethe rejoice, but he is soon chased away by Beloved and informed of Sethe’s actions. Following that revelation, he avoids her. Later, he reconsiders and assures Sethe that he wants to spend his life with her.
Baby Suggs, Sethe’s mother-in-law. Her son, Halle, earned her freedom in return for years of his extra labor. She had seven other children, fathered by different men, and did not know where they were sold. As soon as she arrives in Ohio, she enjoys a sense of possessing her own body. She preaches to the community that they too should love their own bodies. Sethe’s murder of Beloved occurs on the following day, when Baby Suggs provides a huge banquet for the community, an action that invites their anger. She dies after pondering colors for her last eight years.
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...
(The entire section is 1,948 words.)