Beloved: Character Profiles
Amy is the white girl who found Sethe in a ditch, about to die, while she was running away. Amy has left indentured servitude and is on the way to Boston to find velvet. She stops to help Sethe, massaging her swollen limbs and then helping deliver the baby before she moves on. Her last name is Denver, and Sethe names the baby after her.
Beloved is the reincarnation of Sethe's murdered baby. She appears one day, sitting on a stump. She is totally obsessed with her mother because she is emotionally the child of less than two that she was when she died. Children of that age are very possessive towards their mothers, and Beloved does not want to share Sethe with anyone. She also wants sweet things, wants to play, and loves to hear Sethe's stories, all like a toddler. Unlike Denver, she cannot mature because she is stuck in the age she was when she died.
The Bodwins are abolitionists who work to end slavery and to help free slaves. While they treat black people humanely, they actually cannot stand black people and are disgusted by them.
Paul D was a slave with Sethe at Sweet Home. He comes to find Sethe, eighteen years after she ran away. He has never been able to settle down long anywhere, always moving on, but he feels very intensely in love with Sethe and he wants to remain with her. He has a peculiar effect on women. Women feel comfortable crying in his presence, as though they can lay down their burdens with him there to help.
Paul D suffers from the emotional scars of slavery. He constantly wonders if he is a man, like Mr. Garner said, or an animal. Paul D demonstrates the toll that slavery had on masculinity, leaving men unclear on how to behave honorably like true men. In the end, however, he proves himself a man by coming back to help Sethe in her sadness.
Denver is eighteen years old and very lonely. She was born while her mother was escaping Sweet Home, and she loves to hear the story of her birth. She was only a month old when her mother killed her sister, and she nursed right after that, drinking her sister's blood with her mother's milk. Her grandmother, Baby Suggs, says she lives a charmed life. She was very close to Baby Suggs and still feels her loss eight years after her death. She has always awaited her father's return because she is a little frightened of her mother. Denver once tried to go to the school Lady Jones kept in her parlor, but she stopped going when one of the children told her about her mother's past. Then she stopped hearing for two years, only hearing again when she heard the baby ghost going up the stairs. Now, she has not left the house and the yard in many years, only going out for Baby Suggs's funeral and to the carnival.
Denver seems weak, but she finds strength when her mother's life and sanity seems threatened. For her, Beloved coming is a chance to grow up and get away from her childish fears and fantasies. She breaks away from her mother's obsessive guilt to go find food for the family. At the end, she is flirting with a young man, indicating there might be hope for the next generation to find a sense of normalcy after slavery.
Mr. Garner is a "gentle" master in that he tells everyone his slaves are "men." He encourages them to express their opinions and lets them carry guns. Yet, he keeps them as slaves and so, when he dies, they are at the mercy of the next master to come along.
Mrs. Garner is also kind to her slaves, but she is weak. When her husband dies, she is afraid to be alone without a white man and invites her widowed brother-in-law to come to Sweet Home. She does nothing to prevent his cruelty to her slaves because she lacks the strength. The Garners demonstrate that it is slavery itself, not just particular masters, which is cruel.
Halle was Baby Suggs's son. He was the only one she was allowed to keep, and he worked to buy her out of slavery. He was also Sethe's husband. He was strong through everything until he saw the boys hold Sethe down and nurse off of her, and then he went mad, sitting by the butter churn and smearing butter on his face. He is an example of how slavery can destroy even the strongest of family ties by allowing whites to get in between family bonds.
Stamp is a runaway slave who helped Sethe on the last leg of her journey. He was so taken with baby Denver that he picks her berries. He blames himself for not stopping Sethe when she went to kill the children.
Schoolteacher comes to help at Sweet Home after Mr. Garner dies. He is educated and soft-spoken, but he treats the slaves like specimens to be studied. He measures them and experiments on them, writing down their reactions to his cruelty. His nephews are more brutal, and he allows them to be brutal so he can investigate the effect that has on the slaves.
Sethe is a former slave. She was purchased by the Sweet Home plantation as a teenager, and there she chose a husband and had four children: Buglar, Howard, a little girl, and Denver. She ran away when her children were young and went to stay with her mother-in-law, Baby Suggs. However, when the sheriff and her master found her, she tried to kill all of her children. She only succeeded in killing one of the little girls, and she went to jail for several months.
Now, she lives with her daughter, Denver, alone in a haunted house. She is lonely but proud, and so she refuses to reach out to the townspeople. When she goes to the carnival, she dresses up so that no one will think she is slovenly, but that just makes them think she is too proud. Because she is unwilling to reach out to the townspeople, she is all alone.
Sethe is characterized by her incredible strength and intense love. Her guilt over killing her much-loved child, as well as her memories of the pain of slavery, has left her feeling there is no joy in life. All she has is an intense love for her children that is so strong it killed one and caused her boys to run away. It is that guilt that allows Beloved to almost destroy her.
Baby Suggs, "Holy"
Baby Suggs was Sethe's mother-in-law. Slavery was very hard for her. She had eight children and seven were taken away from her. Yet, when she is finally free, she has faith that love and a big heart can help people. She leads people in prayer meetings in the Clearing, which is why she is called holy. She does not lead formal prayer, but rather songs and dancing. She is very important in the community and everyone respects her.
When Sethe kills her child, Baby Suggs gives up her faith in love and eventually just gives up on life. At the very end of her life, she just gets into bed and thinks about colors, one at a time. Colors seem safer than big things like children and grandchildren, because colors won't disappoint her.