The difference between a house and a home is that a home is a place of comfort and shelter where refuge from the outside world can be taken. For many, remaining overly attached to home isolates them, giving them a permanent safe space to hide rather than to grow in. In Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved, Denver finds herself at first clinging on to home like a child but eventually matures when she realizes she must. Only when a person is forced away from home can they truly realize what home is.
Denver is an extremely dependent young woman, eighteen years old yet never leaving the confines of 124 after Nelson Lord calls her mother a murderer. There, Denver feeds herself with her mother’s stories about Amy, the company of the baby ghost, and sweets – the only things she assumes she needs. When Paul D arrives and uproots her comfortable, yet isolated lifestyle, the walls of her mental home begin crumbling.
He expels the baby ghost and brings Denver to a carnival. While Denver dislikes Paul D at first for getting rid of “the only company she ever had” and wedging himself into her family, Paul D’s insistence on forming a relationship allows Denver to slowly let people through her doors and into her life. While Denver is still childish, clinging to sweets, she has become less close-minded and ready to grow up.
The introduction of Beloved adds to Denver’s growth and the destruction of her mental home. With Beloved, Denver finds someone she can tend to – a friend but also someone who can depend on her.
Morrison’s portrayal of Denver offering all her sweets and affection to Beloved illustrates Denver’s new selflessness (though part of Denver’s intentions when showering Beloved with love is so that she can be loved back) and how when necessary, all people are capable of growth. There is no singular, persisting home. All homes can crumble but they can also be rebuilt. Denver’s newfound ability to be self-sacrificing has torn down the walls of her safe space. When Beloved’s destruction of Denver’s mental home transitions into the destruction of her physical home (124 and Sethe), Denver once against must leave home. After all, with Sethe too blinded by Beloved to see her selfself-destruction was now up to Denver “to step off the edge of the world and die, because if she didn’t, then they all would.” While Denver despises Sethe for easily justifying infanticide and taking all of Beloved’s love, she realizes that in reality, her true home is with Sethe, the woman who nurtured her without complaint. Denver leaves 124 of her own free will for once and seeks work although she has lived her entire life sheltered. This departure from Sethe, for the sake of Sethe, is what saves Denver and Sethe. Without Denver stirring up the curiosity of the other women, Beloved would not have released her parasitic hold.
Morrison’s characterization of Denver’s growth over one year reflects Denver’s changing idea of home but also her consistent need to defend it from collapsing. Morrison’s exploration of Denver maturing gives insight into how people can try staying in one place, stagnant, but are always capable of moving on. While Denver still holds dear the idea of home, it is less of a crutch and more of a means to find happiness.