Born on a distant plantation that she barely remembers, Sethe is the child of an African-born slave woman whose name she never knew. As a young teenager she was brought to Sweet Home, where she took a man named Halle Suggs for her husband. She had four children, pregnant with the fourth when she fled Sweet Home on foot and alone. When schoolteacher, the brutal master at Sweet Home, tracked her down, Sethe attempted to kill her children rather than see them returned to slavery. Sethe has a troubled relationship with her own past, often not willing to speak about it but obsessively reliving it in her own head. She has a mass of scars on her back that resemble a tree.
Beloved is the ghost of Sethe's third child, murdered to protect her from schoolteacher. Her real name is never known. She is the embodiment not only of the baby's ghost but also the legacy of slavery. She represents the power of the past to intrude into the present.
Paul D was one of the Sweet Home men. He has also suffered horribly, and has reacted by shutting away any deep feelings. He shows up at 124 and tries to make a life with Sethe. He is powerless against Beloved, who seduces him as a way of controlling him and dividing him from her mother. After nearly twenty years of freedom, he is still unsure of the source of his manhood and his humanity.
Sethe's daughter. She is the grown up daughter of Sethe who was born during Sethe's flight to the North. Denver is eighteen years old and terribly lonely. She has not left the yard of 124 by herself for twelve years. She has a possessive need for Beloved, and initially will do anything to please her. But she is also a very dynamic character; by the end of the novel, she is transformed into a strong and independent young woman with a new understanding of her mother.
Halle Suggs mother and Sethe's mother-in-law. Halle bought her freedom, which she accepted because she saw how much it meant to him. She did not expect how much it would mean to her, feeling while still a slave that she was too old to enjoy freedom anyway. But freedom transformed Baby Suggs, giving her a new understanding of what it meant to be alive and transforming her into a kind of holy woman for Cincinatti's black community. Sethe's tragedy, however, broke Baby Suggs' spirit, and she spent her last days bed-ridden and somber.
Halle Suggs was Sethe's husband and the father of all of her children. Halle vanished at the time when he was supposed to flee to the North with Sethe; later, it is discovered that he witnessed Sethe's brutalization at the hands of schoolteacher and his nephews. When Paul D last saw Halle, he had gone insane.
Mr. Garner's brother-in-law. Schoolteacher was a cruel and sadistic master, interested in ways to break the wills of his slaves. He conducted a pseudo-scientific study of the slaves, treating them in his study the way a biologist treats lab animals. His nephews held Sethe down and stole her milk while schoolteacher took notes. When it was discovered that Sethe told Mrs. Garner what they had done, schoolteacher had one of his nephews whip Sethe, giving her the distinctive scars on her back.
A former indentured servant, Amy helped Sethe to escape to the North, saving Sethe's life and helping to deliver her baby. Amy was trying to get to Boston so she could buy carmine colored velvet. Sethe's daughter Denver is named after her.
Howard and Buglar
Sethe's sons and her two older children, she tried and failed to kill them when schoolteacher came. The two boys fled years ago after particularly frightening encounters with the ghost. Sethe has recurring dreams of her boys walking away from her, unable to hear her as she calls for them to come back.
The old master of Sweet Home, Mr. Garner was generous by the standards of slave owners, and insisted that his slaves were the only male slaves in Kentucky who were real men. His "enlightened" slavery, however, proves to be a sham after his death and was full of contradictions and hypocrisy even in his life.
Mr. Garner's sickly wife. She brought schoolteacher to Sweet Home after Mr. Garner's death. She spent the last months of her life bed-ridden and very ill.
One of the slaves at Sweet Home, Sixo was one of the planners behind their flight to the North. He regularly visited a woman who lived thirty miles away, dubbed the Thirty-Mile woman. He was close to Paul D during the time of Sweet Home, but was killed during their escape attempt.
Paul A, Paul F
The brothers of Paul D. All three brothers were at Sweet Home for most of their lives, until Paul F was sold and Paul A died during the escape.
A woman who was an agent on the Underground Railroad. She took Sethe on the final leg of her flight to the North. When Ella was a girl, she was shared by a white man and his son. After Sethe killed her child, Ella becomes one of her harshest critics. Later, she softens her opinion, and organizes the woman to go and exorcise Beloved from 124.
Born with the name of Joshua, Stamp Paid changed his name after his wife was taken to the bed of their master's owner. Stamp felt he had paid all of life's debts in that year. Stamp worked as an agent for the Underground Railroad for many years. When schoolteacher came for Sethe, it was Stamp who saved Denver's life. He is a friend to the family and also to Paul D.
Lady Jones teaches the black children of Cincinatti how to read and write. She is mixed-race, with yellow hair that she despises. She was once Denver's teacher. When Denver flees 124 looking for help, she turns to Lady Jones.
Nan was the one-armed woman who nursed children back at the plantation where Sethe was born. Sethe has more memories of Nan than of her own mother.
Servant to the Bodwins. She spreads the story of Beloved's return through the black community. She was working for the Bodwins when Baby Suggs first arrived, and she is still working for them when Denver is looking for work decades later.
Edward Bodwin and Miss Bodwin
Brother and sister, they are former abolitionists and try to be helpful to the black community. They own 124, which they allowed Baby Suggs and her family to use. Edward Bodwin witnesses the exorcism of Beloved.
Beloved Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Beloved is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
This quote tells us that slave life was so brutal that one could not invest in love in even a child because that love could so easily be brutalized. They needed to save their love to spend after the eventual heartbreak when the first love is...