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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. All of these scars represent sorrow and guilt that have yet to heal.
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 could do nothing but the guilt and remorse always remains.