Notes on Characters from Beloved

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Beloved Major Characters

Sethe: She was a slave at Sweet Home plantation who escaped to Cincinnati, OH, so scarred by slavery, that at the threat of returning, she tried to kill her children. Only one of her daughters died. Sethe is haunted by her memory and her daughter's ghost until Paul D, a fellow slave at Sweet Home, comes to live with her. When Beloved shows up at 124, Sethe's house, Sethe becomes devoted to the woman she eventually comes to believe is the reincarnate of her murdered daughter.

Denver: Denver is Sethe's 18-year-old daughter born on the Ohio River with the help of a whitegirl as Sethe was escaping to freedom. She survived her mother's attempted murder and stayed in jail with Sethe because she was still nursing. Denver is lonely at 124 (Sethe's house) because she hasn't gone beyond the yard in 10 years. The townspeople avoid Sethe and her family after the murder. When Beloved comes, Denver is possessive of her because she believes Beloved to be her sister's ghost come to life to keep her company. Denver tries to protect Beloved from Sethe because she is afraid that Sethe may try to kill one or both of them again. Denver ends up being the one to go outside of 124 to get help in the end and takes care of Sethe once Beloved leaves.

Baby Suggs: Baby Suggs is Sethe's mother-in-law who was bought out of slavery by her son, Halle, at Sweet Home. Sethe was her replacement on the plantation, and Baby Suggs took Sethe and her children into 124, her home in Cincinnati. Among the Negro community of Cincinnati, Baby Suggs was an informal spiritual leader, referred to as Baby Suggs, holy. She was respected in the community, and her home was a way station for news and refuge and company until Sethe murdered her daughter there. After that, the neighbors shunned the family, and Baby Suggs gave up her faith and resigned to her bed to contemplate color until she died.

Paul D Garner: Paul D is the only still-living Sweet Home man, and he shows up at 124, Sethe's home. He had been sold and then imprisoned in Alfred, GA, until he escaped to the north. Since gaining his freedom, he has become restless, fearing being tied down. He has locked the horror of his experiences as a slave away in his tobacco tin heart, until he moves in to 124. He wants to stay and make a life with Sethe because he has wanted her since she moved to Sweet Home as a girl. When Beloved shows up, she diverts Sethe's attention and seduces Paul D. He is disgusted by his own weakness in having sex with Beloved, but he can't seem to control himself when she tempts him. When he learns of Sethe's crime, he leaves 124, but once Beloved disappears, he returns to care for Sethe.

Beloved: She is an approximately 19-year-old girl who shows up at 124, Sethe's home, in new shoes and a fancy dress. She cannot remember anything about herself or where she's from. All she can tell them is that her name is Beloved. Sethe and Denver take her in and notice that she is childlike; her walk is unsteady, her skin looks new and uncallused, and her voice sounds harsh because it hasn't been used. She likes stories and sweets, as a child would, and she attaches herself to Sethe. Jealous of the attention Sethe gives Paul D, Beloved seduces him and wants to drive him away from 124. Sethe and Denver begin to believe that Beloved is the reincarnation of the ghost that haunted 124 before Paul D came, and they pamper and obey her, until she becomes unmanageable and angry because she thinks Sethe abandoned her when she was younger. She has memories of being locked away somewhere small and dark and of whitemen who mistreated her; she remembers a bridge and the face of a woman she wanted to reach but couldn't; and she remembers a man being dead on top of her. These are the memories of the whiteman who kept her locked in a closet and sexually abused her. She escaped when he died and found her way to 124 and Sethe. Her identity becomes blended with that of the little girl murdered at 124, remembered only by a headstone that reads 'Beloved.'

Schoolteacher: Schoolteacher took over managing Sweet Home when the owner, Mr. Garner, died. His wife asked Schoolteacher, her brother-in-law, to run things when she fell ill, and he treated the slaves as animals and abused them. He allowed his grown nephews to hold Sethe down and nurse her when she was pregnant with Denver, and he beat the scars onto her back. He sold Paul F and dismembered Paul A, burned Sixo, and eventually sold Paul D. What he did to Halle is unknown, but seeing him coming for her and her children is what prompted Sethe to try to kill her children.

crawling-already? girl: Crawling-already? girl is how Sethe refers to the approximately 18-month-old daughter that she murdered in the woodshed when she saw Schoolteacher coming to take them back to Sweet Home. The ghost that haunts 124 is her spirit. Sethe sent crawling-already? girl and Buglar and Howard on ahead to Ohio before she got there, and she asked the woman caring for the children to feed the girl sugar water as a substitute for Sethe's milk until she could get to Ohio to be with her children. When she saw Schoolteacher coming for them, Sethe sawed the girl's neck open because Sethe thought she would suffer less being dead than she would as a slave.

Minor Characters

Buglar: Buglar is Sethe's son who she attempted to kill to protect him from being taken back into slavery. He ran away from 124 after about 9 years because he feared his mother might try to kill him again. Before running away, Buglar used to play and sleep without letting go of Howard's (his brother) hand. They did this ever since Sethe tried to kill them in the woodshed.

Howard: Howard is Sethe's other son, who she also attempted to kill to protect him from Schoolteacher. He also ran away from 124 after Buglar left.

Halle: Halle is Baby Suggs' son and Sethe's husband. He was a slave at Sweet Home who was allowed to work to buy his mother out of slavery. He is the father of all of Sethe's children, and he was supposed to meet her to run away to Ohio, but disappeared. Sethe learned from Paul D that Halle was trapped in the loft when Schoolteacher and his nephews pinned Sethe down and sucked the mother's milk from her breasts, but he did nothing to stop it. Just before he was sold away, Paul D saw Halle sitting by a butter churn looking vacant with butter spread all over his face.

Mr. Garner: Mr. Garner owned Sweet Home and was kind to his slaves, calling them the Sweet Home men. He educated them if they wanted to learn, allowed them to marry rather than breed, allowed Halle to buy Baby Suggs' freedom, took their advice for planting, and trusted them to carry guns. Despite his kindness, he left Sweet Home in debt when he died of a stroke, so his wife called in Schoolteacher to run the plantation.

Mrs. Garner: The wife of Mr. Garner, she was also kind to Baby Suggs and Sethe who helped her in the kitchen. When Sethe wanted to marry Halle, Mrs. Garner gave her crystal earrings as a gift. She sold Paul F after she was widowed and then called in Schoolteacher to run Sweet Home. She fell ill soon after he arrived, and Sethe cared for her. She cried when Sethe told her about how Schoolteacher and his nephews stole the milk she had for her baby, but Mrs. Garner was too ill to speak, much less do anything about it.

Paul F Garner: Paul F was a brother of Paul A and Paul D -- all three slaves who grew up at Sweet Home. He was sold away from Sweet Home when Mr. Garner died.

Paul A Garner: Paul A was Paul F and Paul D's brother who also grew up at Sweet Home, but Schoolteacher dismembered him the day that Paul D, Halle, Sixo, Sethe, and Paul A planned to run away.

Sixo: Sixo was an indigo-colored slave brought to Sweet Home. He would sneak away from the plantation at night to roam and meet his woman who lived 30 miles away (the Thirty-Mile Woman). He never laughed until he and Paul D were caught trying to escape and Schoolteacher decided to burn him. As his feet were burning, he laughed out loud and shouted 'Seven-O!' because his Thirty-Mile Woman escaped being caught and was pregnant with his child.

Amy Denver: Amy Denver is the whitegirl with enough hair for five heads and good hands. She was headed to Boston for carmine (red) velvet, when she came across Sethe lying in the grass. She took Sethe to an abandoned shed and massaged her bloodied, swollen feet and soothed the whelps on her back with cobwebs. The next day she helped Sethe deliver Denver in the Ohio River; Denver is named for her.

Stamp Paid: Stamp Paid is an ex-slave who changed his name from Joshua when his white master took Stamp's wife as his mistress. He became part of the Underground Railroad and helped Sethe and Denver across the Ohio River to safety. He knows all the Negroes in Cincinnati and only asks as repayment for his assistance, that the door is always open for him in their homes. A friend of Baby Suggs, he was at her home when Schoolteacher came for Sethe, and he saved Denver from her mother. After Paul D moves in to 124, Stamp tells him about Sethe's crime and Paul D leaves 124 that day.

Ella: Ella is a sexually abused ex-slave once held captive by a whiteman and his son. She took Sethe and Denver from the riverbank where Stamp Paid left them, and brought them to Baby Suggs at 124. Until Sethe killed her little girl, she and Ella were friends, but Ella would have nothing to do with Sethe because she thinks she is too complicated and too proud. In the end, however, Ella gathers the Negro women of the community to rescue Sethe when they learn that Beloved is the ghost come to life to torment her.

Lady Jones: Lady Jones is a racially mixed woman who was educated at a coloredgirls' school in Pennsylvania. She then began her own school from her home in Cincinnati to educate those who couldn't go to school. Denver attended her school for a year until one of the students asked her about the murder. Denver later turns to Lady Jones for help when Sethe is falling ill, and Lady Jones gets the women of the community to leave food for Denver on the stump in front of 124. They leave these offerings because Denver can't leave the house long enough to get a job to support herself, Sethe, and Beloved, out of worry that they might hurt each other.

Nelson Lord: Nelson Lord is the boy at Lady Jones' school who asks Denver whether or not Sethe murdered one of her kids and brought Denver to prison with her. It's this question that halts her hearing for two years and ends her schooling. His question brings to the surface all of Denver's fears of her mother, and intensifies her focus on the ghost. Denver meets him again later in the story when she is seeking help outside of 124, and he tells her to take care of herself.

Brandywine: Brandywine is the man who bought Paul D from Sweet Home. Paul D is later taken away from Sweet Home like an animal, with an iron bit in his mouth, sent to prison in Alfred, GA, for trying to kill Brandywine.

Edward and Miss Bodwin: Edward Bodwin and his sister, Miss Bodwin, are white abolitionists who rented 124 to Baby Suggs and helped her to find work as a cobbler and laundress after her freedom was bought. They also helped Sethe to find work as a cook at a restaurant when she got out of prison. He worked to keep Sethe from hanging when she went to prison. When Denver needs work, they hire her to stay nights with them when they're elderly and need assistance. Sethe mistakes him for Schoolteacher when he drives up in his wagon to pick up Denver for her first day of work, and she rushes at him with an ice pick. The Negro women stop her and save him. He seems unaware of the attempt on his life because he was staring at Beloved standing on the porch of 124 pregnant and naked when Sethe came after him.

Janey Wagon: Janey Wagon is the coloredgirl who works for the Bodwins when Baby Suggs is brought from Sweet Home to freedom. She helps Denver get the night job with the Bodwins when she needs to support Sethe and Beloved. Denver tells Janey about Sethe's declining health and says that Beloved is a visiting cousin who fell ill, but Janey tells all the coloredwomen of the community that Sethe is being held prisoner and tortured by the ghost of her baby girl.

Thirty-Mile Woman: Thirty-Mile Woman was a slave on a plantation neighboring Sweet Home, and Sixo thinks that this woman is 'a friend of his mind,' so he sneaks away from Sweet Home to meet her sometimes. When Sixo, Paul D, and the other Sweet Home slaves are planning to escape, Thirty-Mile Woman is leaving with them. Although schoolteacher caught Sixo and Paul D, she escaped. Sixo cries, 'Seven-O!' while he is burning because she is pregnant with his child and she got away to freedom.

Schoolteacher's Nephews: Schoolteacher's nephews are his pupils to whom he teaches slave control. They are also the men who nursed the milk from Sethe's breasts when she was pregnant with Denver and needed milk for her other daughter. Then they beat Sethe so badly the scars left her back numb.

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